Justices Hold Booking.com Can Trademark Its Name

June 30, 2020 by Dan McCue
The U.S. Supreme Court. (Dreamstime/TNS)

WASHINGTON — A nearly unanimous Supreme Court said Tuesday that the travel website Booking.com can trademark its name, a ruling of high significance to other companies using a generic word followed by “.com.” as a name.

Lower courts had sided with Booking.com, but the Trump administration appealed the case to the high court last year.

Writing for the majority in the 8-1 ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said simply, “We have no cause to deny Booking.com the same benefits Congress accorded other marks qualifying as non-generic.”

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer, said he believes the majority’s opinion is inconsistent with trademark principles and sound trademark policy.

“Trademark law does not protect generic terms, meaning terms that do no more than name the product or service itself,” he wrote. “This principle preserves the linguistic commons by preventing one producer from appropriating to its own exclusive use a term needed by others to describe their goods or services.”

A number of other businesses had been closely following the case, including Cars.com, Dictionary.com and Wine.com, all of whom feared a decision going the other way would stymie their desires to trademark their names.

The case, United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V., also made a little history along the way. It was the first of 10 cases argued by telephone in May because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was also the first time audio of arguments was available live. 

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