Trademark policy dispute to set a first in the Supreme Court with broadcast of live argument

CSPAN will broadcast oral argument live on May 4th.

As CSPAN explains, “the Supreme Court for the first time in history hears oral argument via teleconference. The case concerns a popular travel reservation company’s fight to trademark its website, booking.com.

The Supreme Court has refused to allow cameras in the courtroom, rejecting CSPAN’s request since to open the high court to public participation in 1988. The Coronavirus pandemic, however, has made the gathering in the courtroom unsafe. The Court has shifted to a conference call format.

To accommodate the change in approach, the Court has also proposed to change the procedure. Instead of allowing any Justice to ask a question at any time, the plan is to have the justices ask their questions in order of seniority. It remains to be seen whether the process will operate so smoothly or whether years of operating as a hot-bench will make it difficult for the justices to wait their turn.

To kick off the new approach, the Court will hear United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V. beginning at 10:00 a.m. (EDT).

The case is relatively simple, clarifying a circuit split regarding the ability to register a generic word by adding “.com” and established secondary meaning:

The court of appeals held that an applicant may obtain federal trademark protection for a generic term by adding “.com” to that term, so long as the relevant public would understand the combination to refer to a specific business. That holding contravenes established principles of trademark law, and it conflicts with decisions of the Federal and Ninth Circuits, the only other courts of appeals that have considered the protectability of “generic.com” terms.

Petition for a writ of certiorari.

SCOTUSblog Coverage

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