Airbnb successfully opposes SeaBNB.
Airbnb, Inc. v. Edward M. Mangini
By: Trademark Attorney Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq.
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination of these elements, that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods/services. Trademarks are essentially brand identifiers.
On May 20, 2021, the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board issued a decision refusing the application of “SeaBNB” on the grounds that it was too similar to “Airbnb.”
For background, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk founded Airbnb in 2008. The founders originally started off by using their own place as a bed-and-breakfast. At the time, a big design conference in the San Francisco area caused the hotels to be fully booked. This led the founders to the idea for expansion and developed a website called airbedandbreakfast.com.
Airbnb is an online marketplace that connects those who want to rent their home with those who are looking for a place to rent. It is utilized mainly for vacation purposes and tourism activities. The company also provides services for arrangement and booking of travel tours and excursions. Airbnb makes a profit from commission for each booking, it does not own any of the properties which are listed. Airbnb has listings all over the map.
Airbnb is the owner of 5 trademarks since 2010.
SeaBnB, on the other hand, is a site that enables users to list and book travel, lodging, and vacation activity opportunities. The applicant Edward M. Mangini sought registration for the name. The domain name was purchased in 2017, prior to filing the trademark application.
Airbnb opposed the trademark application for SeaBnB.
On December 22, 2020, Airbnb filed a motion summary judgement centered on the likelihood of confusion argument under Section 2(d) of the Trademark Act. Airbnb claimed that SeaBnB’s services are identical, highly related, and complementary to Airbnb.
TTAB explained the following standard:
The determination under Section 2(d) of the Trademark Act involves an analysis of all of the probative evidence of record bearing on a likelihood of confusion. In re E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (CCPA 1973) (“DuPont”) (setting forth thirteen factors to be considered). See also In re Guild Mortg. Co., 912 F.3d 1376, 129 USPQ2d 1160, 1162 (Fed. Cir. 2019) (evidence of DuPont factors must be considered when it is of record). This is true even though “not all of the DuPont factors are relevant or of similar weight in every case.” Id.
. . .
The two primary factors are the similarity of the marks and the similarity of the goods or services. Federated Foods, Inc. v. Fort Howard Paper Co., 544 F.2d 1098, 192 USPQ 24, 29 (CCPA 1976) (“[T]he cumulative differences between the respective goods [or services] and the respective marks are sufficient to preclude likelihood of confusion, mistake, or deception”).
TTAB found that the mark SeaBnB was highly similar to Airbnb in overall commercial impression, connotation, appearance, and sound. This could cause persons to be confused with the two services or think that they are associated with each other.
Mangini claimed that he searched the internet and USPTO database to ensure that the mark ‘SEABNB’ was not being used anywhere before submitting his trademark application.
However, TTAB explained that the mark and services do not have to be identical or even directly competitive for there to be a likelihood of confusion.
The test is whether the goods are somehow related, or that the conditions surrounding their marketing are related, or that the service can be met under the impression that it is from a common source.
Airbnb’s motion for summary judgment was granted. Therefore, SeaBnB’s registration was refused.
Research assistance by Darshani Bacchus
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a trademark and business attorney. She writes articles on trademark law. She also writes weekly articles on West Indian history and politics to raise awareness of the past, and educate the Caribbean diaspora on the need for legal contracts and trademarks.
She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minor degree in History that focused on the slavery and indentured servitude eras, a minor degree in Criminology, and a Juris Doctor degree.
MDGR Law, P.A.