RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – The Fourth Circuit prevented a Nevada beef company from registering a trademark “The Last Best Place,” a phrase coined by a Montana poet in 1988. The ruling pits the Lanham Act against a 2006 Congressional amendment that bars anyone from using federal money to “register, issue, transfer, or enforce any trademark of the phrase ‘The Last Best Place.'”
The district court said the amendment contradicts copyright law, but the circuit reversed, ruling that “Congress has the power to amend substantive legislation through appropriations riders if it does so very clearly.”
Montana writer William Kittredge first used the phrase as the title to an anthology of poetry. Montana businesses adopted the phrase and made it part of Montana culture, but no one tried to trademark it until 2001, when Nevada-based Last Best Beef filed eight applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO properly based its refusal on the Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006. See ruling in Last Best Beef v. Dudas.