MillerCoors is currently running this Lite Beer ad, promoting the limited edition original can, and taking credit for inventing the light beer category, way back in 1973.

It is a great reminder that despite Miller’s determined and long-protracted litigation over its attempt to own the word LITE as a trademark for beer, in the end, it was unsuccessful because the misspelled word LITE was found generic — along with the correctly-spelled word LIGHT — for a type or category of beer, namely, low calorie beer.

What MillerCoors does own — as a federally-registered trademark — is the visual representation of the word LITE in the unique script to the right (with the generic word LITE disclaimed):

With the phonetically identical words LITE and LIGHT generic for low calorie beer, and part of the public domain for anyone to use, it isn’t surprising that others have gotten into the market with their own federally-registered versions of the misspelled LITE category term for beer: Falstaff Lite, Lite My Fire, Mike’s Lite, Arctic Lite, Lite is Good, and Duff Lite.

So, if you can’t legally own the category term, maybe you can take credit for inventing it.

Marketing types, I ask you, how much is that credit worth to a brand?

Enough to make your main competitor spell the word correctly?

Trademark types, can you think of other similar examples?

  • Patent attorneys and trademark attorneys should work together with inventors to name new product categories, not just new products. Over on the TTABlog today (the day after this DuetsBlog post) there is discussion of a merely descriptive refusal for ABDOMINAL ELEVATOR, affirmed by the TTAB. John Welch points out that “[i]t is not clear that the Board was aware of the title of Fisher’s patent application, ‘Abdominal Elevator,’ nor his use of that term throughout the application to identify his invention, nor the wording of the patent claims, which begin, “An abdominal elevator comprising . . .” As Mr. Welch’s comment suggests, this use of “abdominal elevator” in the patent would have been problematic for the applicant. For example, the use of a trademark is not preferred in patent application titles, and a trademark referenced in the application should always be capitalized and accompanied by the generic terminology. See Examiner Note to MPEP 608.01(v). Some other issues that may arise are discussed in a 1968 law review article here: http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3011&context=wmlr TTABlog post here: http://thettablog.blogspot.com/2014/02/wyha-ttab-affirms-mere-descriptiveness.html