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Initial Interest Confusion

If name is destiny, are initials almost as important?  Fashion house Yves Saint Laurent and Steven Lee of jewelry company Goldfinger Hawaii, Inc., seem to think so. 

The detailed and informative TTABlog reports that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the appellate body within the U.S. Trademark Office, recently affirmed a refusal to register the SL mark on the left for jewelry, finding it confusingly similar to the YSL mark on the right. 

Need you ask Y?

Steven Lee's failed attempt to register his initials for jewelry is similar to another dispute over initials that was recently called to my attention by Professor Tony Sebok.  Chef-owner Daniel Boulud of, inter alia, db bistro moderne in Manhattan, objects to the name chef-owner Danny Brown's more recently opened restaurant in Queens, db Wine Bar & Restaurant.  While the dining scenes in the 2 New York City boroughs are worlds apart, that's not quite far enough to escape Boulud's vigilant legal team.

Does this signal a rapid depletion of initials available as trademarks within particular industries?  Will the 2- or 3-initial logo soon go the way of the 2- or 3-letter dot com domain names, long since snapped up by quick-thinking registrants and now generally unavailable?  Perhaps not, in world where interlocking Cartier CC's (left, but you knew that already) and Chanel CC's seem to co-exist peacefully.  (One does wonder if that were always the case, or if the same result would occur if a new CC logo for jewelry were introduced today.  Counterfeit Chic hastens to assure all concerned that this site does not have any plans to enter the business.) 

In each of the current disputes, the similar marks rise and fall not only on the selected letters but also their arrangement and appearance.  The YSL and SL marks are both vertically overlapped, and db marks both use lower-case letters.  While Cartier and Chanel both consist of back-to-back C's, they typefaces are quite different -- and again, long established. 

While it seems that initials will continue to be a fertile source of new marks, entrepreneurial parents might nevertheless be wise to choose unusual names and unpopular initials for their offspring.