Will the Trailblazer Benefit from Residual Goodwill in the U.S.?

The Chevy Trailblazer is making its comeback to the United States after a ten-year hiatus. Chevy stopped production of the SUV in the U.S. in 2009, but did that effectively stop its trademark rights in the TRAILBLAZER mark as well? Likely not if Chevy can benefit from the concept of residual goodwill (also known as lingering goodwill).

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has a policy that absent an extraordinary situation, everything filed with the Trademark Office will remain public. This includes any pending applications or registrations that subsequently are abandoned. When an application or registration is abandoned, the record is marked “dead” in the Trademark Office’s database.

The legal precedent is legion that “dead” registrations cannot prevent the registration of a subsequent mark. Nevertheless, some trademark searchers argue that reviewing “dead” records is time well spent because abandoning a registration is not tantamount to abandoning all trademark rights and because of the concept of residual goodwill.

Residual goodwill occurs after a trademark owner has permanently discontinued use of a trademark or service mark (i.e., abandoned the mark), but there remains some minimal use of the mark in connection with selling off inventory, for example, or in connection with related goods or services. This argument generally only succeeds when additional factors favor a finding of non-abandonment, for example, where there has been a continued presence of branded products in the marketplace or the manufacture and sale of replacement parts.

It seems pretty clear that General Motors permanently discontinued use of the TRAILBLAZER mark for vehicles when it decided to end production. However, General Motors was smart when it prepared its trademark application for the TRAILBLAZER mark back in 1997. The description of goods in the TRAILBLAZER application read “motor vehicles, namely, sport utility vehicles, engines thereof and structural parts therefor.” According to the General Motors Parts Store website, parts for the Trailblazer continued to be available after production of the SUV stopped. General Motors next renewal deadline is July 1, 2019, so we will see what General Motors renews.

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