A phantom trademark can be exorcised. A 'phantom trademark' is in which an integral portion of the mark is represented by a blank or missing information. The USPTO will refuse registration of a phantom mark because it would be hard for someone to identify and distinguish the goods and services covered by the mark. Enterprise Holdings, Inc. got caught in the vortex of phantom marks when it tried to register this trademark for vehicle dealerships, fleet management services and vehicle rental services. The examining attorney refused registration on the basis that the mark was missing information. Part of the problem was that the specimens of use each separately showed the mark with added words “car sales”, “commercial trucks” and “fleet management” in the bottom white space. The examining attorney called this ‘mutilation’ of the mark. Enterprise Holdings, Inc. wouldn’t take no for an answer and appealed to the TTAB. The TTAB reversed the refusal. The TTAB held that the added terms were generic descriptions and could not function as a trademark alone. The added terms can be deleted from the mark without changing the commercial impression.

TAKE AWAY. This decision is good news for anyone registering a basic trademark that will be used for a family of goods and services. You can come up with a basic design and add generic terms to differentiate separate lines of goods and services. And you don’t have to register each and every version of the mark to get protection.

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