Justices Hear Arguments Over Phone in Booking.com Trademark Case

Written May 5, 2020

On May 4, 2020, the tradition-bound Supreme Court head oral arguments by telephone for the first time in USPTO v. Booking.com B.V., a case about whether “Booking.com” and similar marks are entitled to federal trademark protection. US, No. 19-46, oral argument held 5/4/20.

The US Patent and Trademark Office and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board initially rejected Booking’s attempt to register “Booking.com,” finding it generic. But the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said the generic word “Booking” combined with the generic top-level domain ".com” can create a descriptive trademark, and found that “Booking.com” had secondary meaning based on consumer survey evidence.

The justices expressed concern that such trademarks could monopolize the use of generic terms in domain names. But they also questioned whether ".com” marks could rightly be compared to other combinations of generic marks that have been previously held unprotectable.