Disparaging or Merely Descriptive?
Can "Not Made in China" be trademarked?
And are trademark offices a new hotspot in the culture wars?
IP Dragon, an interesting blog dedicated to "gathering, commenting and sharing knowledge about IP in China to make it more transparent," reports that Gibraltar-based Alvito Holdings has submitted three verbal and figurative applications for "Not Made in China" to the European Union's Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), while an unrelated individual has submitted five such applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The applications cover categories such as clothing and leather goods.
Apparently China isn't pleased.
At least as far as the U.S. is concerned, however, "Not Made in China" may be a tempest in a teapot. A similar attempt to register "Not Made in France" for clothing resulted in a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decision that the mark was "merely descriptive" and therefore unregistrable. In re: VRBIA, 2004 TTAB Lexis 703 (not citable as precedent).
And unless current trends in garment manufacturing are reversed, a "Not Made in USA" mark may one day be simply superfluous.
P.S. The Trademark Blog, Marty Schwimmer's intelligent and informative site, has updated information on the U.S. applications.