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Truncating an Underwear Brand: JK, JKY?

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Marketing, Trademarks, Truncation, USPTO

As you know, we’ve spun a lot of fabric over the last few years on the topic of brand and trademark truncation. Marketers seem to love the informality, emotionality, and efficiency of truncated brand names. I suppose trademark types love them too, since they can have the tendency to spin off a variety of complicated legal issues — all in dire need of sorting.

But, not to worry: A briefer brief brand is on the way. Yes, underwear giant Jockey recently launched a truncated form of its JOCKEY brand to just three-letters: JKY. Apparently there is much art and science to this decision and the associated marketing campaign focusing on attracting a much younger demographic.

This JKY brand truncation made me think about the recent Ralph Lauren truncation to RLX, a truncation that caught the watchful eye of Rolex’s trademark department, but to no avail at the USPTO, at least to date. Let’s just say, if the world famous Rolex brand isn’t strong enough to reach the RLX truncation, then that is probably a clear warning to most brand owners that they ought to seriously consider developing enforceable trademark rights in truncations they’d like to prevent others from using.

Had Rolex used and owned rights in RLX it wouldn’t have had to try and stretch the waistband of the ROLEX trademark to fit the difficult legal task of challenging RALPH LAUREN RLX or RLX RALPH LAUREN. And, by continuing to use the JOCKEY brand while creating rights in the JKY truncated form, Jockey should avoid the problem Rolex faced with challenging Ralph Lauren’s RLX.

Bringing it a bit closer to home, I’ve recently learned (through painful repetition) from my two youngest children — whose middle-school peer-group seems to embrace language and communication truncation — that “JK” means “Just Kidding.” Do you suppose this meaning was known by the brand managers at Jockey and helped prevent the further truncation to just two letters: JK? Or did JK Intimates play a role in stopping the truncation just short of two letters?

To complicate or perhaps confuse matters further, when I informed my fashion-conscious and brand-conscious sophomore son about my present blogging topic, his response: “Isn’t JKY too close to DKY?” I said, “do you mean DKNY?” His response: “Oh yeah, never-mind.” As far as I can tell, DKY points fairly uniquely to an integrated marketing communications firm in our own backyard, not another fashion brand.

So, in the end, we’ll have to wait and see whether Jockey is “just kidding” with a temporary truncation, or whether it will truly stand the test of time — using, of course, a Rolex watch.