A couple months ago, Selfridges, a high-end department store based in London, launched a “No Noise” campaign.  The initiative seems rooted in the company’s history; its original store featured a “Silence Room” to allow shoppers an empty area to relax from the stimulating hustle & bustle of the retail experience.  From the site:  “As we become increasingly bombarded with information and stimulation, the world is becoming a noisier place. In an initiative that goes beyond retail, we invite you to celebrate the power of quiet, see the beauty in function and find calm among the crowds.”

The practical result of this initiative was The Quiet Shop – which features a line of minimalist-designed clothing, jewelry and makeup products from well-known brands (“The Quiet Edit”) and a line of de-branded products from brands like Heinz, Levi’s and Clinique (“De-branded Design”).   De-branded products?!  Gasp!

Before you read further, first take a look at the de-branded products and see whether you are able to identify them.  Go to http://nonoise.selfridges.com/ and click on The Quiet Shop at the left, then select “De-branded Design ” and the products will be shown. (For a single view of images of the entire collection click here.)  Admittedly, there were a couple that I could not immediately identify (apparently I don’t moisturize well enough).

The de-branded products were pitched as exclusive collector’s items – perhaps more valuable for the lack of a brand name than for those products bearing the brand name.  Several of the products are sold out.

While the de-branded products no longer feature the brand name directly on the product itself, the de-branded products still feature several trademark elements that indicate source or otherwise protectable intellectual property elements.   Protection has at least been sought, and in some cases received, at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for each of these elements.  The pocket with the tag on the Levi’s jeans.  The keystone logo on the Heinz ketchup and beans.  The ketchup bottle.  The tomato plant design on the Heinz ketchup bottle.  The 57 VARIETIES on the Heinz canned beans.   The shape and color of the Clinique bottle (which by the way hasn’t registered in the U.S.).  The design of the Beats by Dr. Dre headphones is the subject of several U.S. patents like this one, and while they have a trademark registration for the “b” design mark , the design mark does not appear on the No Noise version of the headphones (although there may be other indicia of source on the packaging).

While consumers tend to buy items based on the brand, might de-branded design soon become a trend?

Can consumers identify your product (or your client’s product) without the brand name?  If so, what indicia of source allow the consumer to make this association?  If there are such indicia of source, have you protected these elements?