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'Greatest Snow on Earth' survives lawsuit by circus

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Utah's tourism motto, "The Greatest Snow on Earth," has survived a federal court challenge brought by the circus that made the slogan "The Greatest Show on Earth" famous.

Since 1872, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows Inc. and its predecessors have used the greatest show label. Utah began using the greatest snow slogan in 1962 to promote ski-related tourism and registered it as a state trademark in 1975.The dispute with Ringling Bros. began when the state applied for a federal trademark in 1988.

Ringling Bros. challenged the trademark. In December 1995, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board approved Utah's request to trademark the phrase.

Ringling Bros. then filed suit in January 1996.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III of Alexandria ruled that Ringling Bros. could not stop use of the snow slogan. He said the company failed to prove that consumers were confused by the similar slogans.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Tuesday, noting that Ringling's own consumer survey "tended to disprove rather than to prove the required threshold mental association" of the slogans.