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The USPTO Put Its Foot Down on Registering Master Rancher

Is a MASTER RANCHER also the RANCHMASTER? That is the question pondered by the TTAB in this ex parte appeal.

The hardware store, True Value Company, despite owning numerous registrations for “MASTER-” formative marks, was unable to secure a registration for MASTER RANCHER for footwear due to the prior registration of RANCHMASTER also for footwear.

The Case

True Value Company, LLC owns numerous registrations for “MASTER” formative marks, including, for example, MASTER MECHANIC, MASTER ELECTRICIAN, MASTER PLUMBER, MASTER PAINTER, and MASTER TRADESMAN. True Value sought registration of the mark MASTER RANCHER for footwear (Serial No. 88-335,947). The examining attorney refused the application on the ground of the likelihood of confusion with a prior registration for RANCHMASTER for footwear(Reg. No. 4,605,257). True Value appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

True Value argued that the two marks are dissimilar for various reasons, beginning with the meaning of “master.” True Value used dictionary evidence to argue that “MASTER” could evoke different impressions, given its positioning in a mark. When positioned at the beginning of a mark, as in MASTER RANCHER, a master is one “having or showing very great skill or proficiency,” whereas “MASTER” in the second position in RANCHMASTER has a different meaning, describing “a man in charge of [a particular ranch].” True Value also referenced sixteen sets of registrations where transposed marks were allowed to exist in the marketplace as proof that the MASTER RANCHER and RANCHMASTER can exist in the footwear industry without confusion. The TTAB was not persuaded and insisted that the marks at issue were more similar than not.

True Value also asserted that the use of the word “MASTER” is a house mark, further distinguishing its mark from the Registered Mark. But, the TTAB did not consider its family of MASTER marks since it did not properly introduce the evidence of such use and, in any event, such argument was unavailable to overcome a likelihood of confusion refusal in an ex parte 2(d) refusal.

Finally, True Value argued that the existence of a prior registration for the mark MASTER RANCHER for gloves weighs in its favor for registration. Because the registration was less than five years old, and the goods were not identical, The TTAB found that True Value did not meet the requirements of In re Strategic Partners, Inc., where a prior registered mark could help weigh against a likelihood of confusion.

An experienced trademark lawyer can assist in developing a protectable brand with a broad scope of protection. If you have questions about this case or other trademark matters, please contact Elizabeth Cohen or your trademark professional at Arent Fox.


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