Internet Cooking Channel Can't Trademark 'Jaws,' Says Board

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office thinks consumers might confuse a streaming 'Jaws' cooking program with the silver-screen shark of the same name.
Courtesy of Photofest

There's only room for one Jaws in the entertainment trademark sea.

The 1975 icon remains popular enough that trademarking the name for an Internet cooking show would likely lead consumers to believe the two are connected, according to a decision from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

"The evidence shows that JAWS has permeated into general culture, including being parodied by filmmakers," writes administrative trademark judge Marc A. Bergsman in his March 18 opinion affirming the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's refusal to register. 

In 2013, Mr. Recipe, LLC applied to trademark "JAWS" and "JAWS DEVOUR YOUR HUNGER" for a streaming Internet channel providing programming related to cooking.

Trademark examining attorney Sara N. Benjamin rejected the application in July 2014, finding it would likely cause confusion with the already registered "JAWS" trademark for "video recordings in all formats all featuring motion pictures."

Mr. Recipe appealed last year. 

When someone applies for a trademark that already exists, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office looks at the similarities between the marks and the similarities between the services they'll be used for to decide if the duplicate would likely cause confusion. In this case, it also weighed the fame of the "JAWS" mark, because "famous marks enjoy a broad scope of protection or exclusivity of use."

In her 2014 decision, Benjamin attached an excerpt from the Turner Classic Movies website to show the scope of Jaws' fame: "For better or worse, this film, which kept scores of people from taking a dip in the ocean during the summer of 1975, was also the first motion picture to break the $100 million record in box office rentals, bypassing such previous champions as The Sound of Music (1965) and Gone with the Wind (1939)."

Attorney for Mr. Recipe Anne Marie Bossart argued Jaws is a "40-year-old-thriller about a shark" that obtained only a "niche" level of fame and that the general public is unlikely to confuse it with her client's Internet cooking channel.

The appeal board didn't bite. 

"As a result of the perceived iconic status of the JAWS movie, it has repeatedly been spoken of as one of the best movies of all time and a top-grossing film," Bergsman writes. 

He also found the three extra words in the second trademark Mr. Spice requested don't clear up the confusion. 

"In this case, the addition of the phrase 'Devour Your Hunger' calls to mind the shark from the JAWS movies," Bergsman writes. “Because of the fame of Registrant’s JAWS mark, the shark’s reputation as having a voracious appetite, and Applicant’s standard character form application, Applicant’s mark is just as likely to engender a commercial impression of Registrant’s shark as of an appetite to be satisfied.”

Bossart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.