Supreme Court says generic domains like booking.com can be trademarked

Enlarge / The headquarters of Booking Holdings in Amsterdam. (credit: poludziber / Getty)

The US Patent and Trademark Office erred by finding the term booking.com was too generic for trademark protection, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

Trademark law prohibits anyone from registering generic terms that describe a class of products or services. Anyone can start a store company called “The Wine Company,” but they can’t use trademark law to stop others from using the same name. When the online travel giant Bookings Holdings sought to trademark its booking.com domain name almost a decade ago, the US Patent and Trademark Office concluded that the same rule applied.

Booking Holdings challenged this decision in court. The company pointed to survey data showing that consumers associated the phrase “booking.com” with a specific website as opposed to a generic term for travel websites. Both the trial and appeals courts sided with booking.com, finding that booking.com was sufficiently distinctive to merit its own trademark—even if the generic word “booking” couldn’t be trademarked on its own.

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