How dare the Trademark Office stand in the way of Uncle Bunk and his mermaid love? Bass Pro Shops is again trying to register an image of a man carrying a mermaid as a trademark after repeated attempts to do so were rejected by the Trademark Office.
Trademarks come in all shapes and sizes including weird ones. Bass Pro Shops is the owner and operator of a large chain of stores that sell outdoor camping and fishing equipment. At nine of these locations it runs a restaurant/ bowling alley entitled “Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl & Grill” that feature family style eating and under water themed bowling. In these establishments there is a statue of good ole Uncle Buck carrying his mermaid (bride??) that greets customers. This statue has caused Bass Pro Shops a great deal of trademark problems over the years.
In May 2014, Bass Pro filed a trademark registration in a class covering bowling alley services for the black and white image that can bee seen to the right. The Trademark Office issued rulings against the mark and in the latest one held that the mark (a statue) merely serves as a decorative/ornamental function both inside the building and at the entrance and there is no evidence that consumers would view the statue as serving any more than a decorative/ornamental feature. A trademark must be used as identifying source of goods or services in order to be protected, it can’t just be a decorative image.
Last week, Bass Pro filed a request for reconsideration claiming that the mark consists of a “man that is well-known by Applicant’s customers because his image is used on a number of products sold exclusively by Applicant” and therefore the mark is more than decorative. Bass Pro provided a lot of evidence showing Uncle Buck as a source identifier for certain Bass Pro goods and services but didn’t show any other use of the Buck/mermaid trademark. Bass Pro will likely need more compelling evidence of using the statue as a trademark in order to get it through. Bass Pro can either cut bait or keep trying to land the prized trademark registration.