Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


Signe H. Naeve


Geographic indicators—trademarks that use a place name to indicate goods or services—are now theoretically easier to register, even if the good or service does not actually come from that place. This shift is a result of three cases, two authored by Chief Judge Randall R. Rader of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (California Innovations and Les Halles), and one where he served on the panel (Spirits International). These cases made it more difficult for a trademark examiner to reject an application for a primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive mark by adding a materiality requirement. However, raising the bar was not the intent of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) amendments, the subject of interpretation in the case trio. This Article tracks the significant change in the analysis of geographic indicators, ultimately arguing that the Federal Circuit should take guidance from its earlier opinions, In re Wada and Save Venice, and be willing to infer materiality when a location is known for a particular good or service.

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