Company’s own website provided evidence of claimed trademark’s genericness

Boston Duck Tours LP v. Super Duck Tours LLC, —F.3d—, 2008 WL 2444480 (1st Cir. June 18, 2008)

Boston Duck Tours has been providing tours of Boston in amphibian vehicles (called “ducks” but spelled DUKWs) since 1993. After a competitor moved into town in 2007 calling itself Super Duck Tours, Boston Duck Tours filed suit for trademark infringement. The district court enjoined Super Duck from using its mark and logo. Super Duck sought review with the First Circuit Court of Appeals. On appeal, the court reversed.

It held that the lower court erred in finding that the term “duck tour” was not a generic term outside the protection of trademark law. In reaching this decision, the appellate court reviewed evidence of Boston Duck’s own use of the term in a generic sense, including on its website. For example, a sentence read, “[c]ontrary to local belief, the unique idea of a [d]uck [t]our did not originate in Boston.”

The case should serve as a warning to brand owners to ensure (apart from not selecting a generic term in the first place) that they use their marks in a manner that avoids “genericide”.