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May 9, 2024

On May 9, 2024, intellectual property attorney Andy Corea obtained a victory in an administrative appeal when the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) issued a decision in favor of the firm's client MJ Cobalt, LLC. The USPTO refused to register MJ Cobalt’s application to register Arbata as a trademark for “tea” on the basis that it was merely descriptive because it means tea in Lithuanian and was therefore not registrable under the doctrine of foreign equivalents.

There is no dispute regarding the translation of Arbata. However, the decision turns whether Lithuanian is a common language in the United States, which consumers are likely to translate into English. Murtha was able to demonstrate, through U.S. Census data, that the number of Lithuanian speakers in the United States is several times smaller than the number of speakers of modern languages found to be common in other cases. As a result, the TTAB determined that it was unlikely that an ordinary American consumer of tea would stop and translate Arbata into its English equivalent. It therefore reversed the refusal to register.

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