The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) refused registration of the mark “ZHIMA” because the applicant, Advanced New Technologies Co., Ltd., did not submit a translation of ZHIMA into English. In re Advanced New Techs. Co., 2023 TTAB LEXIS 2, 2023 WL 181172 (TTAB Jan. 12, 2023). In the original refusal, the Examining Attorney determined that a “translation statement is required because ZHIMA is a foreign word that means ‘sesame’ in English.” The applicant disagreed, arguing “although ‘Zhima’ is a transliteration of the Chinese characters for the word ‘sesame,’ the word ‘Zhima’ itself is a coined term without any meaning.”
In other words, the Chinese characters , pronounced Zhima, mean “sesame,” but the word “Zhima,” without reference to the Chinese characters, has no meaning.
The TTAB disagreed with the applicant for several reasons. First, the original applicant was Alibaba Group Holding Limited, the Chinese e-retail giant turned e-bank. Alibaba was using the mark in connection with Zhima Credit, or Sesame Credit, “a bit of Chinese language wordplay that connects Zhima, or ‘sesame,’ to its parent company Alibaba and the ‘open sesame’ of ‘Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.’” Second, many Chinese English dictionaries define ZHIMA as sesame or sesame seed. Third, numerous news articles referred to “Zhima” as the Chinese term for “sesame.” Finally, numerous third-party websites, including alibaba.com, advertise Zhima as a sesame product.
Based on this evidence, the TTAB determined that “Zhima” translates to “sesame” and “extensive third-party use contradicts Applicant’s argument that it ‘coined’ the term.” Accordingly, the applicant improperly refused to submit a translation statement. Refusing to comply with this requirement was proper grounds for denying registration.