In re Dr. Matthias Rath (Fed. Cir. 2005).
In this trademark case, Dr. Rath appealed from a decision by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) that refused to register the marks “DR. RATH” and “RATH.”
Dr. Rath is German and holds a German trademark registration for the marks. However, the U.S. Examiner refused to register the marks after finding them to be “primarily merely surnames.” Mere surnames are not registrable under the Lanham Act (Section 1052(e)(4)).
On appeal, Dr. Rath argued that the “primarily merely a surname” rule conflicts with the United States’ obligations under the Paris Convention. The Federal Circuit dismissed his argument because, although the U.S. is a signatory to the Paris Convention, the Paris Convention is not ‘self executing’ and thus has no direct effect on U.S. law.
Further, the court held that the requirements under Section 44(e) of the Lanham Act cannot be read to require the U.S. to register marks with foreign priority if those marks fail to meet U.S. eligibility requirements.
In concurrence, Judge Bryson argued that there is no reason to decide whether the Lanham Act trumps the Paris Convention because in this case the two are in accord.
- File Attachment: Dr. Matthias Rath.pdf (108 KB)
- Of course, John Welch, the TTAB expert will provide more information in due course. (permalink).