Robert Troy Hoff attempted to register this trademark for use on clothing:
Some Georgia companies that had a different brand had objections:
No registration for Mr. Conceal Carry, owner of Administrative Trademark Judge Christopher Larkin of the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board, along with Judges Linda Kuczma and Thomas Shaw (Coca-Cola Co. v Hoff); His proposed trademark was banned by the Federal Trademark Act, which prohibits the commercial “dilution by blurring” of famous trademarks:
Dilution through blurring is “association that results from the similarity between a mark or
Trade name and a famous brand that spoils the distinctive character of the famous brand. “
Dilution may be likely “regardless of the presence or absence of actual or probable confusion, competition, or actual economic damage”. The law fears that “the gradual cutting away of distinctiveness will result in the trademark owner suffering death from a thousand cuts.”
[A]Although the Opposer often takes public positions on issues of public interest, “he has not yet taken a position on issues related to firearms, gun control or the second amendment”. He expressed the opponent’s concern that TCCC would lose control of at least part of its goodwill and reputation symbolized by the Coca-Cola character if it were “falsely associated with a position TCCC did not advocate or the TCCC disagreed “. especially for consumers who do not agree with the position. “
The opponent’s concerns are justified. In the United States, there is heated debate between proponents of gun rights such as the applicant and proponents of restrictions on those rights. In this debate, the opponent, like the applicant, has the right to represent one side or the other or not to participate at all. However, we have noted above that the applicant’s mark immediately conjures up the opponent’s famous Coca-Cola writing, which leads to the opponent occupying a certain position in the minds of buyers and observers of the applicant’s clothing.
Even if this association is short-lived for some, it affects the opponent’s ability to exercise exclusive control over the goodwill symbolized by the Coca-Cola character. For members of the public who have been exposed to the applicant’s mark, the opponent may appear as a hypocrite if he later chooses to take the opposite position in the gun rights debate or simply remains neutral.
There seems to be some fuzziness between dilution and the separate brand theory of confusion in this analysis: dilution can occur even if everyone understands that Coca-Cola has no gun control stance and is not confused about thinking Coca-Cola is a Hypocrite in case he eventually defies gun control. (The statement says: “Since we have established a dilution requirement for opponents, we do not have to decide on the likelihood of confusion.”)
The dilution theory simply says that if similar brands are allowed (not just this one, but many others in other areas), the Coca-Cola brand will bring the other brands to mind, even if they knowingly realize that Coca-Cola does has not done endorsed these brands. Still, I think such a dilution is likely, for the reasons given by the panel.