The Supreme Court of the U.S ruled that Booking.com can get a trademark for its name on Tuesday.
Booking.com is a travel reservation site that’s been denied a trademark in the past. The Patent and Trademark Office has denied it because Booking.com is a generic term with .com attached.
Generic terms can’t be trademarked so that no one can create a monopoly around common terms used every day like “shoes” or “beer” in a store or product name.
The court decided against this idea that Booking.com is generic term in an 8-to-1 ruling. The court decided that just because a term is generic doesn’t mean the web address that uses it is. Survey data found that people viewed Booking.com as a brand, not a generic service.
In the court’s opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated “Thus, if ‘Booking.com’ were generic, we might expect consumers to understand Travelocity—another such service—to be a ‘Booking.com.’ “We might similarly expect that a consumer, searching for a trusted source of online hotel-reservation services, could ask a frequent traveler to name her favorite ‘Booking.com’ provider.”
The purpose of trademarks is to ensure that consumers aren’t being misled and that people are getting what they think they’re buying. Since the public sees Booking.com as a specific brand it’s entitled to a trademark according to the ruling.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the US Patent and Trademark Office both warned that this could imperil other businesses that use “booking” in their domain names.
This ruling has a potentially huge impact on how generic trademarks are handled in the future. And it will undoubtedly increase the power and value of domain names, especially for brands with generic names.