Every once in a while, the word “brand” appearing on product packaging surprises me, because my earlier understanding of the word preceding it spells generic, not brand. Just like the above.
Shopping in Whole Foods this past weekend, the above shown VIRGINIA BRAND designation called out like a neon sign from behind the glass of the meat counter, so I had to capture the image.
When speaking about the risk of trademark genericide, I’ll often refer to nervous trademark types behind the scenes influencing packaging to help educate consumers against a generic meaning.
Yet, there was something different about the VIRGINIA BRAND designation. First, the typical ® federal registration symbol is missing, as most brands worried about becoming generic are federally-registered. What’s more, as much as I love VIRGINIA, the name of a State simply lacks the inherent distinctiveness of the previously mentioned coined words that were made up to serve the specific purpose of serving as trademarks. Coined marks are uniquely susceptible to degeneration through genericide, but inherently generic wording begins and ends there.
To me, Virginia was a type or category of ham, either coming from Virginia or perhaps employing a common type of smoking or curing that originated in Virginia, either way generic, not a brand.
Turns out, VIRGINIA BRAND is a federally-registered trademark for packaged prepared meats, but it appears to be owned by White Packing Co., Inc. of Fredericksburg, Virginia, not Wellshire Farms West of Palm Coast, Florida, the latter trademark owner having used this label specimen to federally-register the WELLSHIRE logo (note the small print indicating MADE IN MARYLAND):
In other words, if anyone can sell their version of “Virginia Brand” ham, doesn’t that turn the notion of “brand” on its head, or at least on a boar’s head?
Just because someone calls a duck a goose, doesn’t make it a goose, right?
Let’s just say, I’m more than likely to be confused here. Anyone able to make sense of this brand conundrum? Perhaps an easy job for Dr. Seuss and his famous character Sam-I-Am?