Trademark lawyers need to face the facts. Despite decades of ardent counseling to the contrary, business executives and marketers are not only testing the waters with the treatment of their most valuable brands as verbs, in some cases, they are diving in head first, committing substantial resources and effort toward the clearly stated goal of "verbing up" and having their brands used as

Last week we blogged about the dreaded D-Word and how some marketers unwittingly undermine trademark rights in a brand name by explaining that the name "describes" or is "descriptive" of the goods or services sold under the brand.

We also have blogged about the danger of "taking a suggestive name, mark, or tag-line, and using it descriptively in

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For the record, I love music, lots of different artists and musical styles: Bob Dylan to Aerosmith, Otis Redding to ElvisMontgomery Gentry to Santana, Climax Blues Band to Bill Withers, Jack Johnson to Jamey Johnson, Michael Jackson to Alan Jackson, James Taylor to Taylor Swift, Pink Floyd to

         

Every Sunday I go through the circulars in the paper looking for new products. I usually spend a lot of time with the ads from the national drug store chains (Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid). Recently, I observed that each chain seems to have a radically different philosophy on store brand naming. And while this observation isn’t earth shattering, it exposes the marketing strategies (or lack thereof) of each chain.

For example, check out the allergy section. The big brand names like Benadryl®, Claritin® and Zyrtec® all have store brand/private label competition. Walgreens naming protocol for its store brand is pretty straightforward and seems to be designed to help a consumer find the Walgreens knockoff of the branded product. You can buy Wal-dryl, Wal-itin, and Wal-zyr, and the packaging is color coded to make it easier.  This is a very consistent strategy that is designed to make life easier for the consumer and also designed to build the “Wal-“ prefix as a brand.

          Non-Drowsy 24 Hour Allergy,Tablets          

                    

At CVS, you have to be a well-informed consumer or a doctor to get it right because CVS attempts to align symptoms with branding. For example, the CVS version of Benadryl is called Allergy, while the CVS version of Claritin is called Non-Drowsy Allergy Relief (non-drowsy being a key benefit of the active ingredient in Claritin), and the Zyrtec knockoff product is called Indoor/Outdoor Allergy Relief (Zyrtec is the only brand with indoor/outdoor allergy claims).

                                     


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A couple of hours ago Kare 11 News in Minneapolis reported "Lions Tap wins settlement with McDonalds."

Absolutely no details about the settlement were provided, so it’s hard to understand how Kare 11 is able to pronounce this as a "win" for Lion’s Tap over McDonalds, although it certainly plays into the seductive David and Goliath

This sponsored banner ad is currently appearing in AdAge’s Daily News on-line newsletter:

How many boxes of tissue do you suppose this ad is responsible for selling?

If the answer is none, that is probably fine with Kimberly-Clark since the return on investment for this ad is measured quite differently, I’m sure, given how the

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What does Twitter have in common with Kool-Aid, Mickey Mouse, and Spam? Maybe nothing, at least yet, but I predict that it will soon, unless Twitter retains some talented PR help in a hurry. Why?

The Kool-Aid, Mickey Mouse, and Spam brands all have spawned secondary or alternate and negative non-trademark meanings that have become part of the English language, meanings in each case that lack positive brand associations, to say the least. If Twitter is not careful it will find itself “following” the likes of Kool-Aid, Mickey Mouse, and Spam, and be in the similar undesirable position of tolerating language changes that distract from their brands and favorable brand messages, to be left watching others make generic use of their brand names to communicate a variety of ideas and meanings that are neither flattering nor brand building.


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Although intellectual property lawyers of the Dr. No variety may not like to admit it — I submit that, not all slippery slopes are created equal. While some slippery slope cautions might prevent a few bumps and bruises in traveling along a particular path (e.g., the one on the left below), I suspect far fewer slippery slope cautions actually prevent life-ending falls from perilous cliffs (e.g., the one on the right below), yet other man-made slippery slopes specifically are designed for fun and enjoyment — not danger — and have generated enormous sales over the years (e.g., WHAM-O’s SLIP’N SLIDE brand products).

  

So, putting aside Professor Douglas Walton’s teaching that the slippery slope argument is “often treated as a fallacy,” it is worth asking what brand of slippery slope most accurately represents the risk associated with marketers using their brands and trademarks as verbs?

As discussed in Part I of my Just Verb It? series, many marketers love the idea of having their brands embraced as verbs, but many trademark lawyers totally forbid any “brandverbing,” i.e., “mis-using” brands (adjectives) as verbs: “Why? To prevent brand names and trademarks from becoming generic names and part of the public domain for anyone to freely use, even competitors.”

No doubt, genericide — the ultimate fear of using brands as verbs — equals certain trademark death, a horrible result from both marketing and legal perspectives; but, I submit it doesn’t necessarily follow that brandverbing activities automatically result in trademark death or genericide. To be sure, far more than a single act of verbing a trademark or brand must occur before a majority of the relevant consuming public no longer sees the claimed trademark or brand as identifying and distinguishing certain products or services as coming from a single source. Given this, there must be an opportunity to engage in some thoughtful and creative level of brandverbing without committing trademark suicide, right?


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