Marks with “Ale House” probably can’t be registered on the federal Trademark Register. The combined term “ale house” has been deemed generic, meaning it cannot be a protected registered mark. One court found that the term “ale house” was perceived as a general business description in the same manner as “pub” or “lounge”. Combining another literal element with “ale house” may make it sufficiently distinguishing to be a protected mark. If the term is a geographic indicator or surname, it is probably not enough for federal registration. For example, “Rochester Ale House” or “McGregor’s Ale House” would be unlikely to be registerable. However, adding a dominant term that is coined or fanciful might lead to different result, especially if the term is unrelated to food and beverage. For example, “Red Bonnet Ale House” or “Zolo’s Ale House” might be registerable.
The 11th Circuit Court noted than a public change in perception over time could elevate a non-coined generic term to trademark status. Miller’s Ale House, Inc. vs. Boynton Carolina Ale House, LLC (11th Cir 12-20-2012). The court noted that customer declarations would not be sufficient evidence of such “radical” change in consumer perception of the term, rather, surveys would be better proof.
Working with an experienced trademark attorney can help you choose a trade name with the best chance for registration and trademark protection.