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I See Blue Ovals

Posted in Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Food, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademarks

–Dan Kelly, Attorney

I think Steve once remarked something to the effect that the Internet is employment security for trademark attorneys.  Road tripping is too.  On one such recent occasion, my wife remarked on the similarity of Culver’s blue oval signage to Ford’s famous blue oval.

Obviously, there is no issue here from a trademark infringement standpoint.  Culver’s is clearly in the fast food business, and Ford is an automotive company.  No, the intrigue for me was how I started seeing blue ovals everywhere!  First was Carrier:

Then I noticed the Nasonex logo on a note on my desk from a promotional notepad:

Then the one that put me over the edge, the one that has now made me believe that there is a proverbial vast right-wing marketing conspiracy to toy subliminally with my latent positive associations with blue ovals:  Malt-o-Meal.

As if this were not enough, Brad, reading over my shoulder, suggested I take a look at American Idol:

Yikes!  What’s more, Brad pointed out that Ford is a major sponsor of American Idol!

Joking aside, isn’t it kind of interesting that of these examples, several use a light line to help outline the oval?  From a design standpoint, it seems to enhance the overall shape and clarity of the designs that use it.  I have a secret hope that there is some James Burke-esque “Connections” link in the depths of humanity’s art history that might explain the blue oval phenomenon.  I wonder how many marketing surveys exist that show positive associations with blue ovals?  Is this just a case of sensitivity on my part to the phenomenon, or could I find similar phenomena with, say, green triangles?

While you lose sleep (or not) over these questions, feel free to pass the time running Internet searches for the words “blue oval” to see which of these blue ovals might claim to be the blue oval.  (Hints here here here here here and here.)

UPDATE:  The hits keep coming:

 

  • Hello Dan,
    There was a real craze for oval-shaped logos back in the 90s (from what I remember — it was a little hazy).
    My knowledge of IP law is incredibly limited, but judging from what you said in the post, am I right in assuming that you don’t have a case unless both trademarks identity companies in the same industry?

  • Ilan Geva

    You forgot the logo of cars.com
    http://www.cars.com

  • Hon. Col. Dr. J.B.Manos Esq
  • David,
    Thanks for the comment and for dropping by. The answer to your question is a qualified “yes.” (As with almost all legal answers, the exact legal answer is, “It depends.”) There are many factors that go into an infringement analysis, but the two primary ones are (1) similarity of the marks, and (2) similarity of the goods or services sold under the respective marks.
    One of the other factors is strength of the marks, and when numerous parties use similar marks, this can lead to the concept of “dilution,” which seems to be the case with blue ovals.

  • Ilan,
    Duly noted — and added. Thanks!

  • J.B.,
    Thanks for the tips!

  • Chris C

    Not to be too fussy, but I find it rather disrespectful to use American Idol and not the original Pop Idol.