Native Smoke-Shop Owner Loses Trademark Appeal

(CN) – A Native American owner of a smoke shop cannot trademark the terms “Shinnecock Brand Full Flavor” and “Shinnecock Brand Lights” for cigarettes, because the names falsely suggest a connection with the Shinnecock tribe, the Federal Circuit ruled.

     The trademark examining attorney refused to register the marks, submittedb y Jonathan K. Smith, a member of the Shinnecock tribe and owner of Shinnecock Smoke Shop. The proposed marks included the phrase “made under sovereign authority.”
     An appellate board rejected Smith’s appeal, citing a provision of the Trademark Act that bars registration of marks that imply a non-existent sponsorship.
     That provision specifically protects against marks that “falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”
     The Washington, D.C.-based federal appeals court said the Shinnecock Indian Nation fell into this category.
     “Here, the ordinary meaning of ‘institution’ suggests the term is broad enough to include a self-governing Indian nation,” Judge Clevenger wrote.
     The court upheld the trademark examining attorney’s refusal to register the trademarks.

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