Trademark Office Confirms 'Tinseltown' Means More Than a Portion of Los Angeles

Fashion retailer attempts to glam on to glitzy Hollywood.
Armando Arorizo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The meaning of "Tinseltown" might seem like a philosophical question for a Hollywood cocktail party, but the Platos and Aristotles who work at the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board got around to reviewing it this month.

There, Topson Downs, a clothing company, attempted to reverse a trademark refusal over "TINSELTOWN" for belts, blazers, hooded sweatshirts, t-shirts and more.

The original PTO examiner denied the apparel retailer's trademark attempt because one isn't allowed to claim a mark that is "primarily geographically descriptive," but the applicant refused to accept this.

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So an appellate board got out the dictionaries.

Yes, according to Merriam Webster, Tinseltown -- also known as Hollywood -- refers to a section of Los Angeles that is the site of many U.S. film studios.

However, there's also a bit of noted glitz and glamor associated with Tinseltown/Hollywood.

For example, the Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expression notes that it can refer to having phony glitter -- as in, "Who is this Hollywood dame who just came in?" -- or refer to a gaudily dressed person in sunglasses -- as in, "Ask Hollywood over there to take off his shades and make himself known."

There's also something fashionable about Tinseltown/Hollywood.

For example, one Canadian broadcaster once ran a story about "2007 Tinseltown fashion trends: The trendiest A-listers serve up some hot Hollywood style this year. From Katie Holmes' dramatic new do to Resse (sic) Witherspoon's sensational 'break-up' makeover, red-carpet glam put the power into this year's posh factor."

In a decision that reverses an examiner's refusal to allow a "TINSELTOWN" trademark, the appellate board rules:

"The examining attorney's arguments do not overcome the evidence that the terms Tinseltown and Holllywood denote the movie industry itself, its members and imitators at least as signficantly as a geographic area. That is to say, even if we accept the entertainment industry and fashion industry are closely related, it remains that the term Tinseltown possesses a prominent and significant meaning other than that of a geographical location."

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