–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney
One of the common questions I hear from non-legal and non-marketing types is whether only a design can be a trademark and therefore registrable as such. As readers of this blog are well aware, almost any word or design can function as a trademark if it is used as an indicator of source.
In addition to single words and designs, slogans are also capable of indicating source and are registrable. The Trademark Office recognizes that slogans function as more than the sum of their parts. While descriptive portions of multi-word marks must be disclaimed, the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure states that slogans are to be considered unitary and generally do not require disclaimers.
To this non-marketing type, slogans seem to occupy a relatively pure role in both the trademark and branding worlds – the job of a slogan is to identify a source and evoke the soul of a brand without necessarily identifying a product or service.
Now, we all know that Wendy’s is not the only purveyor of beef, that happiness exists outside of Disneyland, and that it takes more to train for that marathon than a pair of Nike shoes. But slogans do appear to reach consumers in ways that product and service marks don’t. For example, the New York MTA obtained a trademark registration for “If you see something, say something,” to encourage subway riders to report suspicious items in stations. A recent article in the New York Times interviewed New Yorkers who describe the slogan as “a call to action” on one hand and a phrase that “fuel[s] paranoia and fear.” At least one interviewee even had the slogan tattooed on her leg.
Given the emotional, memorable impact of slogans, I’m wondering what some of our readers’ favorite/most effective slogans are. I shared mine above.