Board Rules QLED Trademark Generic for, Well, QLEDs

Previous posts (e.g., here and here) have discussed trademarks that are “merely descriptive” of the goods or services.  Although the registration process can be an uphill battle, some descriptive marks can be protected.

Generic marks, which refer to the class or category of goods or services, are never protectable.

In November 2014, LG Electronics filed a federal trademark application for the mark QLED.  U.S. Trademark Application No. 86/472,855 listed a variety of goods in Class 9, including mobile phones, software, wearable computers, computer monitors, DVD players, touch panels, LED panels, and LED displays for televisions.

During examination of the application, the Trademark Examining Attorney refused registration on the ground that QLED is generic as an acronym for the generic term “quantum dot light emitting diode.”  LG appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board), which affirmed the genericness refusal in a non-precedential opinion.

The test for determining whether a term is generic is its primary significance to the relevant public.

The Board reviewed evidence gathered by the Examining Attorney consisting of several internet excerpts including explanatory text from QLED-Info.com, press releases from various companies, content from product and trade news sites, and articles from science and technology journals.

LG objected that the evidence was from industry publications and press releases and related to as yet unreleased products.  Although the evidence may be “forward-looking,” the Board said, it is nevertheless probative of consumers’ understanding of the term QLED, especially with respect to TVs, smartphones, and other goods in the application:

Obviously, some members of the relevant consuming public would research the types of TVs, smartphones, etc. that currently are available, and the expected next generation of these items, and would encounter materials like those cited above, some of which are consumer-focused….Sony is selling QLED smartphones, and companies such as Samsung, LG Display and QD Visions have been developing products with QLED displays for at least the last six or seven years.

LG also argued that there is no consensus as to the meaning or understanding of QLED and the term “is not a designation for a key aspect for a designation of the goods.”  The Board disagreed:

The bulk of the evidence discussed above uses the terms “quantum dot light emitting diodes” and QLED” interchangeably to refer to a particular type of display technology, and as an alternative to LCD and OLED display technology, for TVs, computer screens, monitors, smartphones, and the other disputed goods, all of which have displays.  The evidence clearly demonstrates that the type of display technology is a key aspect of the disputed goods.

So QLED is generic for several goods relating to LED panels, displays, and related products.  But there was some good news for LG:  it was able to register the QLED trademark for a number of other goods in the application  (see the last page of the decision for the list of protected goods).

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.