My iPhone captured this Salvation Army ad posted on a Minneapolis bus that I was following this morning in snowy and very slow traffic.

Given how prominently the Red Kettle has become in Salvation Army advertisements, no doubt, you know where my mind goes, straight to non-traditional trademark protection for the shape and appearance of the Red Kettle.

Although the Salvation Army has a fairly robust trademark portfolio of federally-registered marks, surprisingly the Red Kettle is not one of them.

There is even an online version of the Red Kettle, for convenient online donations. In fact, it is pretty slick, it took only a few seconds to donate $325 by credit card — although I attached no strings to the donation, my hope is that it will be used as the governmental filing fee for a non-traditional trademark application, so that others’ donations who don’t share my passion on the subject aren’t diverted for this purpose.

And, if the Salvation Army can’t secure pro bono representation to prosecute the non-traditional trademark application for the Red Kettle, they should know they can just ring my bell.

In terms of Look-For Advertising, while I haven’t seen any ads specifically using those magic words, the prominence and focus on the Red Kettle in the ads seems to help draw attention to the consistent appearance of the Red Kettle as a source-identifier, so donors can be confident their generosity is going to the organization they think it is. Celebrities like Selena Gomez have formed their own digital Red Kettle Teams too.

To lay the groundwork for successful registration of the Red Kettle as a non-traditional trademark, it also helps to use the words “Red Kettle” in federally-registered taglines like Rock the Red Kettle.

Stay tuned, hopefully by next year the first non-traditional trademark will be added to the Salvation Army’s trademark portfolio.