Seeing this Caribou Coffee skyway billboard was a good reminder to me of how much we hear about the importance of transparency in our relationships, including those with brands we love:


It appears that the prevalence of society’s use of the word “transparency” may be at an all time high, where the use of “transparent” has declined somewhat since its high in the mid-1800s.

We’ll leave to the lexicographers and linguists an explanation as to why “the condition of being transparent” is apparently more important nowadays than the root word “transparent.”

Having said that, what’s not to love about transparency, at least when it is synonymous with trust, authenticity, and integrity, as opposed to becoming lipstick service to the idea, an overused buzzword, or meaningless cliche.

Yet, given the popularity of the term, especially in certain business niches, when it comes to owning trademarks and taglines containing the term “transparency,” at least from a trademark perspective, it might be a better idea to consult your handy thesaurus, and look for a far less-used and more distinctive term with similar meaning: Limpid, Pellucid, and Perspicuous.

To illustrate the point, what might be the scope of rights associated with this federally-registered service mark for TRANSPARENCY in connection with medical services, especially when it coexists with a federal service mark registration for TRANSPARENT HEALTH, not to mention this multitude of references on Google?

And, when it comes to non-traditional trademarks, such as product packaging and trade dress, let’s not forget what implementing the idea of transparency might bring, when the brand owner is too obvious about it: Functionality and no trademark rights (i.e., when see-through packaging elements are utilized, especially in the food industry).

Could there be a need for balance in not providing “too much information” when consumers don’t really want to watch the sausage being made, yet know it is safe and healthy to eat?

In the end, let us not forget that actions always speak louder than words.