No Trademark for THE JOINT

by Dennis Crouch

In re JC Hospitality LLC (Fed. Cir. 2020) (nonprecedential)

In its decision, the Federal Circuit has affirmed a TTAB decision refusing to register THE JOINT either for nightclub services (Class 41) or a bar (Class 43).  JC Hospitality owns the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada — location of “the JOINT” which has been in operation since 1995.

The TTAB found “THE JOINT” to be a generic term for a nightclub or bar. I have personally never used that term to refer to a Bar, but I do remember Nathan Detroit using the term in Guys & Dolls (“bookie joint” and “Halleluja joint”).

Image result for guys and dolls "joint"

There is also the “Juke Joint” move from the 1940s that was produced for African American theaters in the US (at the time U.S. movie theaters were segregated by race).

THE JOINT is also a euphemism for prison as well as a cannabis cigarette (or so I’ve heard).

Folks around this joint love surprise inspections.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994).

 I mean, you can’t walk into a restaurant, roll a joint and start puffing away. You’re only supposed to smoke in your home or certain designated places.

Pulp Fiction (1994).

Perhaps folks in Vegas are going for a Turkey — go to THE JOINT where you smoke THE JOINT then get thrown in THE JOINT.

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The TTAB affirmed the examining attorney’s refusal to register the mark — holding that THE JOINT is generic for a bar/nightclub.  In the alternative, the Board also found that the term is “merely descriptive” of JC Hospitality’s services and that the company had not acquired distinctiveness.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit has affirmed — citing the Oxford Dictionary

JOINT: An establishment of a specified kind, especially one where people meet for eating, drinking, or entertainment.

JC Hospitality argued that its use of JOINT was as a double entendre — suggesting PRISON.  However, the court agreed with the Board that company had not provided a relationship between its operation and prisons.

Regarding acquired distinctiveness, JC Hospitality submitted two declarations showing revenue, advertising, and marketing — including more than $100 million in revenue while operating under the name. The Board, however found those insufficient because of the “highly descriptive” nature of the mark.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed on this point as well — finding that the Board “correctly determined that a high level of proof was required.”  The court noted that the advertising of THE JOINT in Vegas has always been tied to the well known Hard Rock mark — that constant linkage made it difficult for JC to prove that THE JOINT alone had acquired distinctiveness.

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Unrelated except for TM law:

14 thoughts on “No Trademark for THE JOINT

  1. 7

    Dutch took ’em on the slow train to Peking on La Brea Avenue
    To find the Stax and Sun
    They were reaching to get to
    They was a rapping the flat scat
    Diamond dialectos of points and taps
    Between the chicken and the back
    They drew themselves a be-bop
    Midnight map
    They said “do you got a map the next joint?”
    “Do you got a map the next joint?”

    link to

      1. 7.1.1

        Yeah. But D.C. seemed skeptical, so I though I would provide another reference in case the citations to the OED and Rick’s grumblings weren’t found entirely persuasive.

  2. 4

    “I have personally never used that term to refer to a Bar..?” Your joint was not jumping. Sad. Let’s blow this joint.

    1. 4.1

      I attribute Dennis’s remark to his youth, presumably better-spent than mine.

      In a few weeks he’s headed north to a wonderful town and campus for a very worthwhile IP seminar (Mich ICLE at Mich St Univ, E Lansing), but again, in the cold of March? Shoulda held out for the July conference usually held on Mackinac Island. Again, perhaps a sign of youth.

      As for juke joints, see: link to

      See also the cover of the 1973 album by The Band, “Moondog Matinee” for an example.

  3. 3

    “Unrelated except for TM law”

    Related to your unrelated, I was putting together a presentation on trademark law for luxury and fashion related clients. One of the most famous fashion goods brands is Hermes.

    In my search, I discovered that Hermes is also the name used to identify a gamma ray generator operated by Sandia Labs. (It is used commercially by manufacturers of electronics for the military to test their resistance to radiation.) You can see a description here: link to

    Interesting to explain why that does not infringe on the Hermes fashion trademarks.

    1. 3.1

      Why no infringement? Simple: No likelihood of consumer confusion — which was the rationale (if not the politico-economic reason) for the Lanham Act.

  4. 1

    This is a public service announcement, if you have f at stacks to drop in the st ock market (hopefully long term in low-cost index funds for the SP 500 or to tal stoc k market if this is reti reme nt money) the di p is now. B uy into the di p now. This is a corona vir us sca re di p.

    I repeat:
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    1. 1.1


      Agree 6. The unfounded hysteria — juiced by the reader / listener starved media — over a pathogen less lethal than the flu (which kills some 40K Americans/yr — as many that die in car accidents) is indeed providing a rare equities buying opportunity.

      Sadly, this hysteria is going to put the western world (including the U.S.) into a recession no later than the 1st quarter of 2021.

      But once this hysteria blows over in 18 – 24 months; boom — the Dow is going to 32,000 . . . with the other exchanges following in lockstep.

      1. 1.1.1

        “Sadly, this hysteria is going to put the western world (including the U.S.) into a recession no later than the 1st quarter of 2021.”

        There’s a chance. Personally I hope it blows over without too much ado.

        “But once this hysteria blows over in 18 – 24 months; boom — the Dow is going to 32,000 . . . with the other exchanges following in lockstep.”

        You are correct that’s going to be a happening. Esp if the corona does blow things up big.

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