FILE PHOTO: The building of the new Booking.com customers site is seen in Tourcoing, France, October 4, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider a bid by a federal agency to prevent the popular hotel reservation website Booking.com, a unit of Booking Holdings Inc (BKNG.O), from trademarking the site’s name, contending that it is too generic to deserve legal protection.
The justices will hear an appeal by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of lower court decision allowing the trademark because by adding “.com” to the generic word “booking” it became eligible for a trademark.
The online reservation service, based in Amsterdam, began using its name globally in 2006, and filed several trademark applications in 2011 and 2012.
A tribunal of the Patent and Trademark Office in 2016 rejected those applications, saying Booking.com referred generically to the common meaning of booking lodging and transportation and cannot be used exclusively through a federal trademark registration.
Under U.S. law, only terms that distinguish a particular product or service from others on the market can be trademarked.
The agency noted that federal courts have rejected trademarks for other similar names, such as hotels.com, mattress.com and lawyers.com.
Booking.com appealed, presenting a survey that showed that 74% of consumers identified Booking.com as a brand name. The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the company last February because the name as a whole is understood by the public to refer to a business.
The company, asking the Supreme Court to let the 4th Circuit ruling stand, called itself “one of the best-known travel and accommodations services in the United States.”
Appealing to the Supreme Court, the Patent and Trademark Office said that the addition of “.com” to a generic word does not render it distinctive.
Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham