–Dan Kelly, Attorney

I enjoy stumbling upon niche products and markets that I am completely oblivious to in my day-to-day life.  One such recent find was a store dedicated to model trains.  Growing up, I built a few models–typically aircraft, and eventually model rockets.  I’ve consequently always had a dim awareness that model train building is a niche market of sorts–there are hobbyists who toil away for hours on end recreating scenes of old Americana in basements across the land.  For me, it was just a section of the hobby store that I skipped.

Recently, I stopped by Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store.  (It is just down the block from my wife’s favorite ice cream joint.)  What really caught my attention was the following line of products:

In case you can’t see it, there is a small trademark registration symbol just to the right of the PLASTICVILLE U.S.A. logo.  The first impression, trademark attorney, knee-jerk, “Dr. No” reaction of mine was, “don’t call your PLASTICVILLE U.S.A.-branded products a ‘plastic village!'” but upon further reflection, this is a testament of sorts to the strength of a good, suggestive mark, albeit one that may have spent some time on the fuzzy edge of descriptivenessBachmann Industries, Inc. has rights in the PLASTICVILLE brand dating to 1948.  That’s some pretty decent brand endurance.  And Bachmann Industries is not just dedicated to some shrinking market of fusty, dying old model railroaders; the company has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  There’s even a Plasticville Collectors Association.  (The only thing they don’t have?  Plasticville.com.)

It is easy for any producer to get caught up in seeking big-box, mass-market nirvana at nationwide chain department stores, but there is an amazing array of niche market producers and mom-and-pop shops that chug along just fine–often without the average person on the street taking much notice.  Hats off to those who keep such good times rolling.