In Re: Forney Industries, Inc., No. 19-1073 (Fed. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Forney sells welding and machining products in packaging that displays its proposed mark. Forney applied for a trademark based on use in commerce under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051(a). Forney sought to register the mark without showing acquired distinctiveness, identifying its mark as a “color mark.” Forney stated: “[t]he mark consists of a solid black stripe at the top. Below the solid black stripe is the color yellow which fades into the color red. These colors are located on the packaging and or labels.” The examining attorney refused registration, finding the mark “not inherently distinctive” and stating that “[s]uch marks are registrable only ... with sufficient proof of acquired distinctiveness.” Forney revised the description: “The mark consists of the colors red into yellow with a black banner located near the top as applied to packaging for the goods. The dotted lines merely depict placement of the mark on the packing backer card.” The examining attorney again refused registration. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed, treating the proposed mark as a color mark consisting of multiple colors applied to product packaging.
The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board erred in finding that a color mark can never be inherently distinctive in the trade dress context and that, even if a color mark could be inherently distinctive, it cannot be absent a well-defined peripheral shape or border.