Trademark Distinctiveness

What do you think, is Overstock.com selling bling with the Fordless blue oval logo?

Enamel Turquoise with Blue Ovals Bangle Bracelet

As you may recall from my post back in September, Ford Motor Company is attempting to register the below shown non-verbal logo as a trademark for a variety of goods in Int’l Class 12:

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And, as you may recall from Dan’s I See Blue Ovals post back in August, there are far more than a handful of blue oval logos out there besides this one:

 

The pending Fordless blue oval intent-to-use trademark application recently was examined by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), and on October 23, 2009, the PTO found no substantive bases for refusal, but instead it issued an initial refusal noting only a couple of purely procedural or technical deficiencies, concerning the wording in the lengthy description of goods and the need for Ford to submit a claim of ownership to some related registrations (here, here, and here).


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The October/November issue of Brand Packaging magazine just hit the streets and I’m deeply honored to say that my piece entitled "A Trademark Touch: Strategies for Owning and Protecting Touchmarks" is this issue’s "cover story" (minus the skull and crossbones).

The digital version can be read here. I hope you find it

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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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Furminator deShedding Tool

If FURminator Inc. were looking for a pitchman to promote and increase sales of the “famous” FURminator® pet grooming tool, and recognizing the recent, sudden and unforfunate passing of famous bearded TV pitchman Billy Mays (who could sell household products better than just about anyone, and still appears to be doing so after his passing), I’m thinking that the fictional cyborg assassin character played by “Ahnold” in “The Terminator” film would be the next best pitchman for the futuristic, stylish, and eye-catching pet grooming product shown above.

While either Billy Mays or Ahnold probably could have increased, or still could increase, sales of the product, it is more likely that neither could have saved the company from losing its bid to register trademark protection for the claimed trade dress, covering the three dimensional shape and appearance of the product. Since the applications were refused registration by the U.S. Trademark Office on functionality grounds here and here, and they terminated (were abandoned) without response, I suspect that early collaborations between legal and marketing types (and probably engineering types too) is all that might have helped avoid the terminal fate of these wishful non-traditional trademark applications.


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Notice anything special about this pair of photographs featuring two different Holiday Inn front entrances? OK, putting aside that the one on the right — with green lighting — seems to have attracted, at least, a few cars, whereas the “blue light special” on the left appears to stage a full house with virtually every room light on, but ironically it reveals an empty parking lot.

                       

Well, these aren’t ordinary photographs, they are trademark specimens of use; Six Continents Hotels, owner of the Holiday Inn brand, claims that they depict a pair of non-traditional trademarks, having filed them with the U.S. Trademark Office in April 2009, and asserting that use of the “lighting” marks commenced back in January 2008. So, we aren’t talking about the new H logo previously blogged about here or the old Holiday Inn word mark — those are standard and traditional single-letter logo and word trademarks. In case you’re wondering, no sign of any red or yellow lights for Holiday Inn, at least, on the Trademark Office database.


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My last post explored the fine — but critically important — line, between suggestive and descriptive naming styles, here. As you will recall, marketers and naming gurus who select from the former category are rewarded with immediate rights; selecting from the latter category leaves one in limbo until acquired distinctiveness can be proven, if

Earlier this week, Guest Blogger Burt Alper from Catchword Branding, provided a marketer’s perspective on the pros and cons of naming styles, here.

With that introduction, now seems like a good time to revisit the critically important line — in terms of legal protection — between descriptive and suggestive names, and also provide a handy graphic to illustrate the Trademark Spectrum of Distinctiveness:


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