— Karen Brennan, Attorney
I admit it—I have been watching too much TV in this last, incredibly slow, trimester of pregnancy, while my husband and I await the arrival of our bundle of joy. During one such evening, a commercial came on that started with a floating red umbrella and music, soon joined by Catherine Zeta Jones walking down a street. My immediate thought was what an odd choice for a Travelers Insurance representative, given her ties to numerous large advertising campaigns. The 15-second commercial includes no dialogue or use of words on the screen until the very end, where it turns out to be a commercial for Elizabeth Arden (notably, the company I would immediately connect with the red door).
The red umbrella is an icon and has been for decades. I mean, don’t we all wonder: “aren’t we better off under the umbrella?” The company claims the red umbrella was first used in 1870 when it appeared in a newspaper advertisement and formalized as a legal trademark in 1959. Of course, Travelers also owns numerous federal trademark registrations for the umbrella, including a registration for the red umbrella logo with a claimed date of first use of 1961. To prove dilution, all that is required is that use of a “famous” mark by a third party causes the dilution of the “distinctive quality” of the mark. Thus, even though insurance services and cosmetics are unrelated, Elizabeth Arden’s use arguably dilutes the iconic red umbrella. As much as I love Elizabeth Arden’s products, perhaps they should stick with the red door.
If pregnancy brain can make the immediate connection between the red umbrella and Travelers Insurance, I would say most people in the country would make the same connection, particularly given Travelers’ recent advertisements.
It seems to me the Travelers’ red umbrella is the type of famous mark the Federal Trademark Dilution Act was meant to protect.