We’ve been down this road before, some themes intersect, and trademark value is filtered out:

The intersecting themes on tap for the day are: Zero, Branding, Trademarks, and Loss of Rights.

ZEROWATER is a perfectly suggestive, inherently distinctive, and federally-registered trademark with “incontestable” status as a source-identifier for “water filtering units for household use.”

Judging from the specimens in the file history at the USPTO, the brand owner appears to have done a nice job leaving consumers to imagine the connection between the mark and the goods.

Branding ZEROWATER with taglines like “For water that’s only water,” “Get more out of your water,”  “If it isn’t zero, zero, zero, it isn’t just water” “If it’s not 000, it’s not ZeroWater,” and “If it’s not all zeros, it’s not ZeroWater,” all help to block Zero from pure and mere descriptiveness:

On the other hand, as the top image of the retail endcap shows (click the image to enlarge), the current packaging and product description adds blunt force to the now obvious meaning of ZERO:

“LEAVES ZERO DISSOLVED SOLIDS BEHIND”

Had this purely descriptive use of ZERO been present at filing, then ZEROWATER easily could have been refused as merely descriptive — why add it now? Especially with this far better existing copy:

“REMOVES VIRTUALLY ALL DISSOLVED SOLIDS”

While ZEROWATER can no longer be challenged as merely descriptive for “water filtering units for household use,” what about future applications having slightly different descriptions of goods?

Given all that Coca-Cola has done to turn ZERO generic in the soft drink category (meaning ZERO Sugars and/or Calories), shouldn’t ZEROWATER remove virtually all opportunities for genericness?

When a brand owner migrates toward descriptiveness with its copy, leaving the consumer with zero need to exercise any imagination as to meaning, there just might be “nothing” left to protect.

  • James Mahoney

    Call me obtuse, but to me, ZeroWater means no water. And “leaves zero dissolved solids behind” means that it makes sure to include every last one of those pesky dissolved solids. And, as any third-grade student might tell you, 99.6% does not equal 100%, but why quibble over .4%?

    “Removes virtually all dissolved solids” is far superior in its clarity than the “leaves zero…” line, but I’ll bet the writers of the various zero lines are more than pleased with the clever contortions they went through to tie product attributes to the name, however ambiguous and open to misinterpretation. Sometimes it’s better to just say it plain.

    • stevebaird

      I’d never call you that James, and I trust your judgment when it comes to copywriting, thanks for dropping by!