TTAB Calls Red Bull Appeal Bullshit

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) at the PTO affirmed the examining attorney’s refusal to register Red Bull’s mark BULLSHIT for alcoholic beverages, catering, hotels, and other goods, on the grounds that the term “bullshit” is scandalous. Under Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, words that are offensive to a substantial composite to the general public are not registerable on the Principal Register.

In refusing registration, the examining attorney had relied on In re Tinseltown, 212 USPQ 863, a case decided almost 25 years earlier, in which the TTAB came to a similar conclusion for the mark BULLSHIT as used for handbags and accessories. Red Bull appealed the examiner’s decision as so much crap.

In its appeal, Red Bull presented evidence that in the twenty years since the Tinseltown decision was rendered, community standards have changed. In support of its position, it offered evidence of a show by Penn & Teller: “Bullshit,” and a paper written by a Princeton professor, entitled “Bullshit.” The TTAB was not, well, moved.

Finally, it what can only be described as a truly creative last ditch effort, Red Bull argued that its use of BULLSHIT was an obvious play on that commonly known expression, “Bulls Hit.” Given that it offered no evidence that this expression was, well, an expression at all, the TTAB waded quickly through the argument.

Download the citable decision here

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