Brand Protection Strategies

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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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Best Buy, owner of the Geek Squad brand since 2002, has filed a federal trademark infringement complaint in Minnesota against a pair of individual defendants apparently located in Missouri and California, for allegedly registering and using <thegeekpatrol.biz> domain and the names “Geek Patrol,” “Geek Squad,” and “Geek Squad Patrol”. Here is a copy of the Complaint, including Exhibit A (Trademark registrations), Exhibit B (DomainTools.com print out), Exhibit C (Tollfreeda.com print out), and Exhibit D (Superpages.com print out).

For those of you interested in great entrepreneurial stories, Robert Stephens founded Geek Squad while a student at the University of Minnesota, riding his bicycle around Minneapolis to make computer house calls. The stylish collection of branded Beetles permitted Stephens to cover much more ground when making house calls or office calls. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Robert Stephens and toured his humble first office located above Moose & Sadie’s cafe and coffeehouse blocks from downtown Minneapolis. He gave me and my wife what are now vintage Geek Squad t-shirts, obviously we should have had them autographed at the time!

My early and initial observations of the Geek Squad trademark Complaint are below the jump.


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Brand managers and marketers often wonder about the risks and consequences of not enforcing or protecting their trademarks from infringement. A shooting target formed by a series of concentric circles is the best graphic I have found to illustrate the legal answer to their frequent question.

Judging from the robust criticism Twitter has received about its lax or laissez-faire approach to trademark enforcement, the Twitter folks have never seen (or perhaps they have chosen to ignore) the shooting target graphic illustration. Distilling these criticisms to their essence, basically there are more than a few folks out there asking Twitter: “What are you doing?”

The irony of this is hard not to find amusing, given how Twitter explains its reason for existence this way: “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” For Twitter, only time will tell how “simple” the trademark enforcement “question” is for itself to answer.


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Tough times call for tough decisions. Brand managers know this as well as anyone, and they are certainly facing some very tough decisions during these challenging economic times.

Sometimes shrinking the workforce is considered to be in the best interest of the brand. For example, last week, Carter’s, the parent company of OshKosh B’Gosh, announced that it would be trimming the workforce in order to improve the efficiency and profitability of the iconic — and more than century old — brand.

Brand managers also may be asked to re-evaluate their brand protection strategies in order to cut costs. Given a recent competing brand that appears to have gone unchallenged by OshKosh B’Gosh®, one has to wonder if there is a willingness to shrink the B’Gosh® brand in addition to the workforce.

Returning from a trip to Washington, D.C., for a pair of oral arguments at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), I did some speed-shopping for my daughter at a neat little boutique in Bethesda, Maryland, called The Blue House (I highly recommend it). Without paying attention to brand at all, or even looking at the hangtag or label (okay, I had to catch a plane), I picked up a really cute outfit I thought she’d just love. I was actually right, this time. In fact, she is so taken by it and some other items sold under this brand online, she not very happy that I am writing this post right now. Oh well, duty calls.

Anyway, when I got home and unpacked the outfit I noticed the hangtag for the first time, and honestly, my first thought was, is this a modern rendition of the B’Gosh® brand? After a closer look, I began to wonder whether it is an extension or somehow related to the B’Gosh® brand? It wasn’t until visiting the brand’s website and conducting some searches on the Trademark Office database that I was able to satisfy myself, no apparent connection. In case you’re wondering, no image of the outfit, but I did scan an image of the hangtag and it is viewable after the jump.


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