Trademark: What’s in a Name?on June 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm
Trademark: What’s in a name? It’s a worthwhile and important question to ask these days if you’re a content producer. It used to be that giving your piece (in whatever media) a striking, often peculiar name guaranteed attention. These days, it’s the opposite. You want to be as direct as possible. The reason, quite simply is so that people will find you. That’s the reason why the most obvious url’s sell for thousands (and even tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars). If you wanted to sell cookies 10 years ago a name like “Purple Rainbow” might have been the way to go. These days, it’s cookies.com. In fact, businesses are now formed totally based on what url you acquire. If it’s cookies.com, you’ll start a cookie company. If there’s a good deal on tires.com, you’ll sell tires.
There’s now a land grab going on in the world of trademarks. Companies and brands want to gobble up the broadest and most desirable terms for their exclusive use. They want to be searchable. They want to be found. Just last week the Chanel failed in its attempt to trademark its new perfume name “Jersey.” In this case, the opposition came not from the State but from the British Isle. The Isle of Jersey made a case against exclusivity, a claim that was recognized by the decision of the UK Patent Office. “It was important that we challenged this,” said Jersey senator Alan Maclean. “This was about ownership of the name Jersey. It is not about stopping Chanel using the name.”
Here are a few other recent attempts
- In November Dunkin Donuts attempted to trademark the phrase “Best Coffee in America.” That claim was rejected in a 55 page response (our tax dollars at work) by the USPTO. The response read, in part, The phrase was “merely laudatory and descriptive of the alleged merit of applicant’s services and the goods featured therein,” the trademark office wrote. “Further, applicant’s informational slogan is nothing more than a claim of superiority and is so highly laudatory and descriptive of the quality of the coffee featured in applicant’s restaurants, cafes and snack bars that applicant’s claim of acquired distinctiveness, based on five years’ use of the mark in commerce, is insufficient and unpersuasive.” In 1999 Sam Adams also lost in its attempt to be lock up the phrase “Best Beer in America.”
- Harley Davidson has failed in its efforts to trademark the sound of a revving engine.
- In 2005 a French company failed in its efforts to trademark the smell of strawberries with the EU. .
- Then there are the celebrity trademarks. Jay-Z and Beyonce continue in their efforts to trademark their child’s name. Donald Trump failed to have his catch phrase “You’re Fired” trademarked. Others have been more successfully. Paris Hilton owns the phrase “That’s hot.” She successfully sued Hallmark cards for using it. Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe has trademarked “bananas.”
What do you do if you don’t have access to significant legal help to guide you through the legal thicket or the money to spend on buying the right mark? The good news is that you can do it. If you want to be found you have to be direct and literally repeat yourself. Getting your name or the name and description of your content out there will ensure that you get found. The Internet truly is a democratizing force in many ways. Talk about what you’re doing a lot and in a lot of places, and you will get that coveted Google spot. With practice and time you can actually find yourself in searches right next to some of the big and recognized brands and bold faced names.