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The Looming Danger of Modernizing a Trademark

Posted in Almost Advice, Branding, Loss of Rights, Trademarks

Recently, UnderConsideration’s Brand New blog commented on the new logo adopted by Much Music. After 10 years of using MUCHMOREMUSIC, the logo was changed to MUCHMORE. The new logo is aesthetically more pleasing, but the change raises an important issue. Modernizing old logos can result in abandonment of the old mark, which means a loss of all trademark rights in the old logo.

In order to retain the trademark rights from the old version of the mark, the modified mark must contain what is the essence of the original mark and the new form must create the impression of being essentially the same mark. In other words, the new mark must retain the same overall commercial impression of the old mark. Generally, modernizing a mark will retain the same overall commercial impression of the old mark. However, the risk of creating a different commercial impression looms when elements are added to or deleted from the old mark.

In Much Music’s case, they deleted the term MUSIC, added color, and stylized the terms in a different way. The different stylization of the terms probably does not create a different commercial impression. However, the addition of color when the old logo did not have color and deletion of the term MUSIC could cause the new logo to create a commercial impression that is different from the old logo. The potential loss of 10 years of use could have a significant impact on the brand going forward. Therefore, it is important to keep this issue in mind when modernizing marks especially marks that have been used for many years.

  • Very nice discussion. In a related vein, we are seeing the evolution (modernization) of a prominent (or addition of a new) mark used by a major company. The strategy is excellent. What do you think?
    The strategy and placement of an altered non-word mark to acquire substantial consumer recognition is quite an undertaking. There is a good current example of a corporation gaining consumer recognition of a new mark without throwing out the older prominent mark.
    I have seen advertisements with only the new logo, and immediately recognize its source. It is working on me, and presumably others as well. I have not seen anything written about it.
    While I have not extensively studied the corporation’s US trademark applications, I have seen a few that use the non-word design with a word mark. There are various US Trademark applications. See e.g., Serial Number 77620877 were the description of the mark is: “Color is not claimed as a feature of the mark. The mark consists of a globe device containing three fields whereby the middle field divides the globe and beneath the globe device is the word [INTENTIONALLY DELETED FOR SUSPENSE] in stylized letters.”
    What is the mark? The Pepsi logo (three discrete areas) typically shown as red white and blue (color claimed and not claimed – depends on pending application). I refer to the new logo as the “smiling Pepsi logo” as it appears to be a smile.
    As to the use of the old logo without the smile, I would imagine that Pepsi will continue to use that. It is a recognizable mark.
    I am not associated in any way with Pepsico – the company that owns the Pepsi and related trademarks and IP. I just thought this was interesting.