Who is responsible for this billboard ad? Is it a Google advertisement? Verizon? Motorola? Droid?
Whatever the answer, it helps make the point visually that trademarks require protection beyond mere confusion as to source; basically, the same point we made a while back (in response to Seth Godin’s trademark position and then during a friendly sparring match with Ron Coleman), as we discussed the breadth of the Likelihood of Confusion test for trademark infringement:
With respect to what trademark law was designed for, and while I don’t consider this to be a news flash any longer, well prior to dilution protection being added, U.S. trademark law was amended to make clear that much more than confusion as to source is covered. All the way back in 1962 the Lanham Trademark Act was amended by striking language requiring confusion, mistake or deception of "purchasers as to the source of origin of such goods and services." Moreover, a much broader scope of confusion protection was codified in 1989 in Lanham Act Section 43(a), which protects against trademark likelihood of confusion not only as to source, but as to affiliation, connection, sponsorship, association, and/or approval. This additional scope of trademark protection makes perfect sense given the current commercial realities of trademark licensing, franchises, co-branding, affiliate marketing, and OEM relationships.
Back to the question of who is behind the "Droid Does" billboard advertisement. No doubt, the tangled and intertwined business relationships illustrated in the billboard ad likely have employed a lot of lawyers to keep them all straight.
For what it’s worth, the DroidDoes.com domain redirects to a page on Verizon Wireless’ website, but I suspect each one of these heavyweight brand owners (Google, Verizon, and Motorola) had a say in the "Droid Does" advertising campaign, clearly designed to compete face-to-face with Apple’s popular iPhone. So, Apple is being triple-teamed here? I wonder if Steve Jobs is flattered?
Oh, I forgot, one more heavyweight brand owner appears affiliated, connected, associated, sponsored, or otherwise involved in the complicated approval process here. Lucasfilm Ltd. (yes, Star Wars and George Lucas) is the record owner of the DROID trademark for wireless communication devices and apparently has licensed those trademark rights to at least Motorola, the brand name on the actual wireless communication device being promoted by Verizon and Google. According to DomainTools.com, LusasFilm Ltd. owns the DroidDoes.com domain too.
Do you suppose that Motorola actually manufactured the device or is that part of some hidden OEM relationship?