Sinatra’s Estate Prevails in Trademark (Hot)Dog Fight with Food Truck Owner
On September 12, 2012, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeals board upheld the denial of an attempt to trademark the name “Franks Anatra,” holding that it wrongfully referenced the famous singer Frank Sinatra and was likely to cause confusion or otherwise imply a false association with the iconic American singer.
The estate of Sinatra and Frank Sinatra Enterprises LLC led the opposition toMichiganhot dog truck owner Bill Loizon’s application noting that they currently owned the rights to three trademarks which registered the name Frank Sinatra and Sinatra for use in “entertainment services and prepared sauces.” Additionally, the Trademark Act of 1946 prohibits granting an application for a trademark where it would “falsely suggest a connection with persons living or dead.”
Among Loizon’s arguments in favor of his application was his assertion that “Anatra” means “duck” in Italian, and that the name was “girded by the story of hot dogs that are associated with a foreign land, and has never involved reference to the entertainer in question.”
The board’s opinion noted: “[t]he marks Frank Sinatra and Franks Anatra are phonetically equivalent,” and that “[t]his equivalence reinforces their visual similarity.” The board also stated that “we do not understand how the applicant’s mark engenders the commercial impression relating to anything other than a play on the Frank Sinatra name,” noting that most consumers would not understand Loizon’s obscure reference and play on the Italian language.