Stella McCartney, a vegetarian luxury brand, has been using the term ÂFur Free FurÂ since 2001 for products which are typically made using a blend of sustainable materials such as modacrylic, cotton or polyester, to Âincorporate the look and feel of fur but without any animal crueltyÂ. However, the brand have been fighting for the term ÂFur Free FurÂ for approximately two years now as McCartneyÂs legal team attempted to register the term as a trade mark in the US Patent and Trade Mark Office. Yet, this was rejected.
An attorney from the US Patent and Trade Mark Office stated that ÂFur Free FurÂ cannot serve as a trade mark due to it being merely descriptive of a feature of the goods. Trade Mark Law does not protect purely descriptive marks. According to the examining attorney ÂMcCartney intended the connotation of the mark to be easily understood and obvious to the general public so that it would clearly convey the fact that its goods are made of material that resemble the pelt of a mammal but are not in fact made from materials from the skin of a mammalÂ.
As expected, McCartneyÂs counsel were unhappy with the decision, so appealed the matter to the Trade Mark Trial and Appeal Board in June 2018. It was argued that the term, ÂFur Free FurÂ, is not a descriptive term and is not describing the brandÂs products. It was suggested by McCartneyÂs counsel that the term Âobliquely suggests information about the goodsÂ which essentially only adds additional thought on the part of the consumer.
However, last week, the Trade Mark Trial and Appeal BoardÂs panel of judges came to a majority decision that ÂFur Free FurÂ would not be seen to be a mere description of McCartneyÂs products due to the term ÂFurÂ, which comes around in two instances, is likely to have different meanings. The first word of ÂFurÂ would refer to animal fur, implying that the goods contain animal free fur. The second term of ÂFurÂ is likely to refer to imitation fur. Due to the different meanings of ÂFurÂ in the trade mark application, it suggests that the goods are both fur-free and made out of fur at the same time. This concludes that the term is not descriptive.
After two years of opposing this legal battle, Stella McCartney can continue with the application of ÂFur Free FurÂ becoming a trade mark.