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More than a few trademark types cringe when their clients or others say things like “let’s trademark it,” “they didn’t trademark their logo,” or “we don’t want to trademark this name,” and, when they ask questions like “is it trademarked?” or “is that trademarked software?” or “did we ever trademark our logo?” or “should we be trademarking this packaging?”

Indeed, some have written: “’Trademark’ is not a verb. There is no such thing as ‘trademarking’ a word or phrase.” Similar views are expressed here, here, and here.

Perhaps any cringing may result from the fact that the Lanham Act — the federal trademark statute — defines the word “trademark” as a noun, not a verb or adjective:

The term “trademark” includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof —

(1) used by a person, or

(2) which a person has a bona fide intention to use in commerce and applies to register on the principal register established by this chapter,

to identify and distinguish his or her goods, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods, even if that source is unknown.

Section 45 of Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1127.

Turns out though, the wordstrademark,” “trademarked,” and “trademarking,” are recognized words with established verb meanings that have formed part of the English language: “(1) To label (a product) with proprietary identification; and (2) to register (something) as a trademark.” Moreover, the word “trademarked” has an established adjective meaning too: “labeled with proprietary (and legally registered) identification guaranteeing exclusive use; ‘trademarked goods’“.

From my perspective, there is no need for cringing or even correction, just further inquiry into how the words “trademark,” “trademarked,” and “trademarking” are being used.


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A brief study in how the Lion’s Tap could have had its burger and eaten it too.

I have to say, in the interest of full disclosure, I have an irrational love for the Lion’s Tap.

Ever since I worked in Eden Prairie back in the 1990s, I’ve been hooked. Fast forward the better part of a decade, put our family a cool 35 miles away in Shoreview, and we still find ourselves driving nearly an hour on special occasions to grab a burger.

That’s part of what made me so damn mad when I saw McDonald’s latest billboards. Who’s your patty? For Angus burgers? You’ve got to be kidding. Lion’s Tap is "my" patty, thank you very much! They’ve had the slogan on their tastefully tacky t-shirts for over four years.

I thought about it though. I know Lion’s Tap. But my guess is that only a small smattering of people do (perhaps 3-4% of the Twin Cities population if you were to survey). Who are they going to think came up with the slogan? And if they walked into Lion’s Tap tomorrow, who would you think was ripping off whom? That’s right. You guessed it.

It bugged me. I was a bit upset. I was ready to come to my restaurant’s defense.

Until they sued.

You can read more here, but the fact of the matter is that Lion’s Tap decided to run to the courts to remedy what is calls a trademark infringement case.

Here’s the problem, instead of coming off as the victim (which you could argue Lion’s Tap is), they come off as another coffee-in-the-crotch, show-me-the-money, lawsuit-happy opportunist. Just read some of the news stories and read some of the comments to see what I mean, here, here, and here.

Ick.

Let’s explore what Lion’s Tap "could have" done differently, and how it might have panned out.


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twitterrificDownload-Spam Logo-

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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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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