Community Issues

Penn State Loses "Happy Valley" Trademark Fight -- For Now

A federal trademark attorney says the phrase describes the whole region, not just PSU

Penn State has lost the first round in the school's attempt to trademark the iconic phrase "Happy Valley." An attorney for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the university's trademark application, saying the words are geographically descriptive of the whole State College area, not just the university.

Penn State filed for the Happy Valley trademark last year after the trademark's previous owner, Nittany Embroidery & Digitizing, didn't renew it. The school wants to use the term on fan gear like hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts (image; PSU online bookstore ) , and claims the trademark application was not an effort to keep other businesses from using it.

The Centre County (PA) Times newspaper says U.S. Patent and Trademark Office attorney Kelley also called the way the school wants to use the phrase "ornamental" in rejecting the application. "With respect to clothing, consumers may recognize small designs or discrete wording as trademarks, rather than as merely ornamental features, when located, for example, on the pocket or breast area of a shirt," Wells wrote in the refusal. "Consumers may not, however, perceive larger designs or slogans as trademarks when such matter is prominently displayed across the front of a T-shirt."

Trademark attorney Josh Gerben, who is not associated with the case, called the application a "land grab" echoing attorney Wells contention that Happy Valley refers to the State College region, not just PSU. On his Twitter page, Gerben analyzes the decision line by line -- click here if you want to watch.

The Times says Penn State had no comment. The school has six months to respond to the ruling to keep the trademark fight alive.

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