Tea Ruling is Clear: Black is not White

An attempt to trademark Wisconsin-based White Jasmine LLC “misdescribes” teas marketed by the company, according to a decision by the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

White Jasmine LLC of Mount Horeb, Wis., sought to trademark the name beginning in 2003. After the initial filing was rejected, they appealed.

An article published in World Trademark Review reports the TTAB ruled “that since the applicant indicated that its tea does not contain white tea leaves and that it sells black tea using the mark, the term ‘white jasmine’ misdescribes tea that is not white tea and, in this case, includes black tea.”Tea

The ruling means White Jasmine can no longer use the term. Attorneys for the company also tried to convince the appeals board that the name was distinctive. The decision notes that the company sold 10,000 units in the four years beginning in 2007 at 92 locations but sales of $75,000 are “hardly persuasive evidence of acquired distinctiveness for products marketed to the general consuming public.”

Owners of the mark also argued the term “white jasmine” described the scent of a specific type of jasmine but TTAB asserted that since there were no white jasmine flowers or scent from white jasmine in the product that customers buying the tea would interpret “white” as describing the type of tea.

Lawyers pointed out that a web search yields many white jasmine products that are made with white tea, including Choice Organic White Jasmine and Argo White Jasmine.

Sources: World Trademark Review, TTAB Ruling