Is Delta the World’s most trusted airline?

At least a few people seem to think so based on a filing made earlier this month to the US Patent & Trademark Office. The company attempted to register the phrase as a service mark, essentially trying to claim exclusive use of the phrase.


In the application Delta indicates that they have expectations of broad use for the phrase covering many aspects of the travel experience. The phrasing is interesting with the inclusion of the “enhanced” and “expanded” bits as well as mention of all the ground services involved.

Air transportation services; air transportation services featuring a frequent flier bonus program; transportation services, namely, providing a specialized priority airline service with reservation services, enhanced airport ticketing processing, priority check-in, gate handling and aircraft boarding services, enhanced seating accommodations, enhanced personal space, computer connections and expanded meal services for passengers; delivery of goods by air and land; providing an on-line computer database in the field of travel information services and travel ticket reservations

Intent to Use: The applicant has a bona fide intention to use or use through the applicant’s related company or licensee the mark in commerce on or in connection with the identified goods and/or services.

Delta does a whole lot of things right these days so I’m not going to go so far as to say they’re untrusted or even begin to try to guess whether they’re the most trusted. And I say that in large part because the USPTO already decided on the application: It was denied.

In their response the USPTO noted:

According to the attached definition from the Collins American English Dictionary, “world” is defined as “the planet earth.” See the attached definition 1(a). “Most” is defined as “greatest in amount, quantity, or degree.” See the attached definition 2. “Trust” is defined as “to rely or depend on.” See the attached definition 13(b). “Airline” is defined as “a system or company for moving freight and passengers by aircraft.” See the attached definition 2. When used in connection with the identified services, “the world’s most trusted airline” is a laudatory phrase that states that applicant is the most relied or depended upon company for moving passengers by aircraft on the planet earth. The phrase is merely laudatory and descriptive of the alleged merit of applicant’s services.

Because the applied-for mark is a merely laudatory and descriptive of the alleged merit of applicant’s services, registration is refused under Section 2(e)(1) of the Trademark Act.

The ruling even made reference to puffery as potentially dooming the application, “In fact, ‘puffing, if anything, is more likely to render a mark merely descriptive, not less so.'”


I’m reminded of the lawsuit a few years ago between Papa John’s and Pizza Hut over the former’s slogan in which they eventually admitted it is puffery. In other words, they say it even though they have no formal basis for the assertion. Domino’s turned that in to a commercial.

Interestingly, Papa John’s ultimately prevailed in the lawsuit and continues to use the phrase.


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. As a former Diamond of 3 years, I have to say that Delta is one of the least trusted airlines in my book. I rank AA much higher.

  2. They have a “frequent flyer bonus program”? If so, it certainly could not be called the “most trusted” no mattery what the “puffery” content.

  3. In trademark law puffery is so much something they say “even though they have no formal basis for the assertion.” The courts define it more as an exaggerated advertising, blustering, and boasting upon which no reasonable buyer would rely.

    In other words, puffery is a statement where they have no formal basis for the assertion AND something no reasonable consumer would rely on.

  4. Charlie – puffery in this case refers to the fact that Delta must have been puffing on something when they expected their customers to trust them.

  5. Delta should patent and trademark their 5 tiered reward redemption program next year, so other airlines can NOT copy their program without paying a royalty or licensing fee.

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