Coffee and donut chain Dunkin’ Donuts’ attempt to trademark the phrase “Best Coffee in America” has been tentatively denied by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
A trademark is a word, phrase, or symbol legally registered to let consumers know the source of goods and services so they can distinguish between them easily.
But in this case, the USPTO found the phrase “merely laudatory and descriptive of the alleged merit of applicant’s services and the goods featured therein,” and therefore, it could not be trademarked.
In its application, Dunkin’ Donuts pointed to the fact that they’ve been using the slogan for five years, but the USPTO was not impressed:
Further, applicant’s informational slogan is nothing more than a claim of superiority and is so highly laudatory and descriptive of the quality of the coffee featured in applicant’s restaurants, cafes and snack bars that applicant’s claim of acquired distinctiveness, based on five years’ use of the mark in commerce, is insufficient and unpersuasive.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ application is on par with the attempt of beer company Boston Beer, makers of Samuel Adams, to trademark “The Best Beer in America” in 1993. That attempt failed because the USPTO also found the mark merely laudatory and descriptive, i.e., it failed to distinguish Boston Beer as the source of the goods in question.
Of course, all is not lost for Dunkin’ Donuts as it can still keep claiming to be the “best coffee in America” just as Samuel Adams still calls itself the “best beer in America” — but they would both be doing so without legal trademark protection. This means that every other coffee and beer company could claim the same.
What do you think of trademarking a “best” phrase? Should it be permitted? If so, should it be based on something other than a company’s making a claim as the best?