Yesterday, Under Consideration’s Brand New Blog discussed the redesign of the Nickelodeon trademark. Nickelodeon has decided to drop the well known splat design that encapsulated the NICKELODEON term. As reported by Under Consideration, Nickelodeon’s “splat” has existed in one form or another for over 15 years. Although the orange “splat” has evolved over the years, it was a recognizable symbol of a Nickelodeon product.
This leads to an important issue, designs are important branding tools. Trademark law argues that the words are the most dominant portion of a trademark because it is the element that consumers use to ask for the goods or services. However, this is not always true. Often times, the word portion of a mark is subordinate to the design component and consumers rely on the design or other matter to identify the source of the goods or services. Good examples include the Nike swoosh or the Under Armour “UA” design. But a design or non-traditional trademark does not need to reach the status of Nike of Under Armour to have a significant market affect. A good example is Christian Louboutin women’s shoes. Most people do not know the brand of any women’s shoe at first blush, but most people recognize the red sole. Well, Christian Louboutin has federally registered the red sole of these shoes. Therefore, it is important not to overlook or discount the branding power a design can have and it is worth considering the highest level of protection for this element of a trademark.