The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear arguments over whether online hotel reservation service Booking.com is entitled to trademark protection for its name.
The battle over the site's name dates to 2016, when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Booking.com's request for trademark. The agency said the name “Booking.com” was too generic to be granted trademark protection.
Booking.com challenged that decision in court. The company prevailed in 2017, when U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia ruled that even though the word "booking" is generic, adding the top-level domain ".com" entitled the company to trademark protection.
The Patent and Trademark Office appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also sided with Booking.com -- but for slightly different reasons. The appellate judges said the agency failed to prove that consumers believe “booking.com” refers in general to online hotel reservation services.
The Patent and Trademark Office then asked the Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit's ruling.
The agency argued the ruling went against prior decisions which held that generic terms can't be trademarked, even with “dot-com” after their names.
In 2009, the U.S. Circuit Court Court of Appeals ruled that "Hotels.com" and "Mattess.com" weren't entitled to trademark protection.
Booking.com countered that there was “overwhelming evidence” that consumers view the term Booking.com as a company name.
The booking service specifically referenced a survey that it says indicates nearly 75% of consumers recognize Booking.com as a brand, and not a generic service.