Here’s another example of how the naming of trademarks is often influenced by references to pop-culture.

In a recent U.S. trademark opposition decision, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that the mark SUNNY HAZE for beer was confusingly similar to PURPLE HAZE, for inter alia, beer, so as to prevent registration.  In the case, Abita Brewing Company LLC v. Mother Earth Brewing, LLC, the Board was faced with considering whether the Sunny Haze mark of Applicant for “beer, and brew malt-based alcoholic beverage in the nature of beer” was confusingly similar to Opposer’s Purple Haze mark for “beer, ale, lager, and malt liquor.”  In its Notice of Opposition, the Opposer also relied on two of its other registrations for the Purple Haze mark for “shirts, caps, headwear, and beverageware.”

In concluding that confusion was likely, the Board stated that two “key considerations” in making such a determination were the similarity between the trademarks and the similarity between the goods.  With regard to the latter factor, the fact that the parties’ respective marks both sought protection for “beer” made that likelihood of confusion factor weigh in favor of the Opposer.   In its assessment of the similarity between the parties trademarks, the Board concluded that the first word of both marks modified the word “haze” and connoted a color (golden or purple) or a mood (fury or cheerfulness).   While such a conclusion might constitute a quantum leap in logic (particularly as it relates to a consumer’s perception of the word “purple” as part of the composite mark), the Board nonetheless reached its conclusion of similarity — most likely on the fact that the Opposer submitted sufficient evidence to establish the fame of its Purple Haze trademark for beer.  Since there are no other third-party “haze” trademarks for beer, it seems that Opposer met its burden as being well-known for that moniker in the alcoholic beverage space.

Trademark attorney notes:  Like other trademarks that may be associated with well-known celebrities, such as “the Duke” for John Wayne or “Hound Dog” for Elvis Presley, the trademark “Purple Haze” has been registered by numerous parties over the years.  There are currently 11 U.S. trademark registrations for Purple Haze for a wide variety of goods, including,  frozen confections, fireworks, automobile wax, cosmetics, smoking articles, cheese, and knives.  The lesson here is that unless a party makes early efforts to protect its trademarks, they may quickly be picked-up by other third-parties to apply to a wide variety of goods and services.