Trademark Protection of Geographical Terms Law and Legal Definition

Geographical terms are those terms that convey to consumers a geographical connotation primarily or immediately, where such consumers are likely to believe that the underlying goods or services come from that location. Generally, such terms fall into three categories such as:

primarily geographically descriptive,

geographically deceptively misdescriptive, or

geographically deceptive.

Primarily geographically descriptive terms and geographically deceptively misdescriptive terms are capable of protection if the owner can demonstrate that they have acquired distinction through secondary meaning. But geographically deceptive marks will never receive protection. If a geographic mark is accurate, it is considered as geographically descriptive. When a geographic mark is inaccurate, then the mark is either geographically deceptively misdescriptive or geographically deceptive, depending on which test a court applies, and the facts of the situation. A minority of courts look at the intent of the mark owner, while most courts look at whether or not consumers are likely to materially rely upon the misdescription. Therefore, a mark will be geographically deceptive if either the owner intended to deceive the public about the origin of the product, or if consumers are likely to rely upon the misdescription in making their purchasing decisions. In the U.S., there is a prohibition against the registration of any geographical mark for wines or spirits not from the place indicated in the mark.