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Little Caesars fails to prove ownership of 'double word' marks

If you are familiar with Little Caesars you have most likely heard their slogan, "PIZZA!PIZZA!" before. This is a common treatment used in the pizza company's advertisements, and many of these "double word" phrases, each followed by an exclamation mark, have been trademarked, such as "CHEESER!CHEESER!" and "MEATSA!MEATSA!"

Recently, LC Trademarks, the owner of Little Caesars trademarks, attempted to register another similar phrase, "DEEP!DEEP! DISH PIZZA" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The examining trademark attorney rejected the application, stating the mark was merely descriptive and not distinctive enough.

LC Trademarks appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), and the decision to deny the trademark was affirmed on December 29.

What constitutes a family of marks? And why was LC Trademarks denied registration of ownership of the double word phrases? 

According to an article in the National Law Review, "A family of marks is a group of marks that all share a common characteristic that consumers recognize as an indication of source; one famous example is McDonald's family of "Mc" marks." LC Trademarks has registered 17 double word marks, and argued that, "in the world of pizza restaurants, double word marks mean Little Caesars."

To prove ownership over this family of marks, LC Trademarks needed to show that:

  1. Its family of marks has a recognizable common characteristic
  2. The common characteristic is distinctive
  3. The common characteristic has been marketed so that the public recognizes it as indicative of the source of the goods.

In the eyes of the TTAB, LC Trademarks fell short on all three criteria. The TTAB states in their opinion:

"While we presume the marks and registrations to be valid, the registrations alone do not demonstrate the extent to which customers have been exposed to the marks, or the extent to which customers have been exposed to the mark DEEP!DEEP! DISH PIZZA or perceive it as a source indicator."

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