Iconic Green Jacket Is A Golf Trophy and A Registered TrademarkMarch 5, 2020

The famous green sports coat given each year to the winner of the prestigious Masters golf tournament is now a registered trademark.

On March 3, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued registration number 6000045 to Augusta National, Inc., which filed the registration application on  February 21, 2019.  The mark includes three gold buttons on the front of the jacket and two gold buttons on each sleeve.

The registration identifies a date of first use in 1949, when the Jacket was first awarded to Sam Snead, who also received $2750 for the winner’s purse.  Last year, Tiger Woods won the green jacket and $2,070,000.  The champion also gets a trophy, which is a replica of the Augusta National Golf Club clubhouse, and a 2.3 ounce, 3.4 inch gold medal.  The winner gets to keep the jacket for a year, then must return it to the Club for wearing only at the Club.

The registration was initially refused by the Trademark Office examiner, who asserted that the mark consistsed of a non-distinctive product design or non- distinctive features of a product design that is not registrable on the Principal Register without sufficient proof of acquired distinctiveness.  The drawing was also deemed not acceptable, since it included non-protectable functional elements.  In the Examiner’s words, “In the present case, the following elements are functional:  the shape of the jacket and the buttons on the jacket. Only the overall shape of the jacket is depicted in dashes; the trademark examining attorney appreciates that this has been done.  The attached evidence from the Men’s Warehouse, Banana Republic and Zara websites, show that the button elements are functional because they aid in the closing of the front of the jacket, and in securing the sleeves of the jacket. The button configuration shown in applicant’s mark is used industry wide.  These sources show that the button placement down the front of the blazer and on the sleeves are for jacket closure.”

In an unusual move, the Trademark Office reassigned the application to a different examiner, before any response was filed to the first examiner.  The second examiner refused registration because the applied-for mark consisted of non-distinctive trade dress that would not be perceived as a service mark but only as decoration or ornamentation.  The second examiner further explained, “In this case, the evidence shows that the applied-for mark is not inherently distinctive because use of colors on the jacket is merely decorative in nature.  The attached evidence from a Google® search list show numerous golf blazers in various colors.  Moreover, there are numerous golf tournaments that are associated with golf jackets in various colors, namely, Quail Hollow’s navy blazer, RBC Heritage red plaid jacket, Dunlop Phoenix blue plaid jacket, Australian Masters gold blazer, and PGA Grand Slam of Golf pink blazer.  See the attached third party website at https://www.golf.com/photos/jacket-required-golfs-other-winning-blazers showing winning jackets from the various golf tournaments aforementioned.  Thus, potential viewers do not initially view such use of applicant’s colors green and gold on the jacket as a mark for the services but merely as ornamentation for the jacket.  Therefore, registration is refused because the applied-for color mark, consisting of one or more colors used on some or all of the surfaces of a product or product packaging, is not inherently distinctive.”

In response, Augusta National noted that their green jacket was one of the most recognized brands in the golf industry.  They acknowledged that other golf tournaments also award jackets to the winners, but not in the color green.  They also cited their three federal trademark registrations for the words GREEN JACKET, along with other evidence that the green jacket had acquired distinctiveness over its 70 years of use.

The examiner then approved the application, which was published without opposition, leading to granting of the registration this week.  The 2020 Masters Tournament runs April 9-12.

Trademark image

Kirk Hartung is a patent attorney and chair of the mechanical and electrical practice group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC.  For additional information please visit www.ipmvs.com or contact Kirk directly via email at kirk.hartung@ipmvs.com.

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