Since the beginning of trademark law, there have been “trademark battlegrounds” where trademark owners battle to standout in the marketplace and attract loyal customers.
Whenever I talk to an immigrant or a visitor to the U.S. and ask what is different here than their home country, many of them say, “the cereal aisle in the supermarket! There are so many different cereals to choose from!” The cereal aisle in a supermarket is a classic example of a “trademark battleground,” where many different brands are offering the same or similar products in one centralized space. Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, Fred Flinstone and Cap'n Crunch all battle to get customers to buy their brand of cereal.
In trademark battlegrounds, it is important for companies and brands to do everything they can to stand out to consumers. In addition, brands want to allow past customers to quickly identify them and purchase them again. In other words, it is important what companies choose as their trademark.
Let’s take a look at some of the age old trademark battlegrounds and the new trademark battlegrounds that arose due to new technologies.
Perhaps the original trademark battleground occurred between different shops and businesses on the street. Shops of every kind, ranging from general stores, banks, butchers, delis and more quickly developed their own, distinctive trademark to distinguish their services from nearby competitors.
Today, this tradition continues. One only needs to walk down Fifth Avenue in New York City to see many different stores advertising their high end clothing, jewelry and accessories, such as Armani Exchange, Gianni Versace, H & M, Prada, Louis Vutton and more. In fact, it is important for brands to show their trademarks in this competitive trademark battleground to let the world know they are one of the most respected and high class brands in their respective industry.
An interesting aside, maybe the oldest “collective mark” also developed on the streets. The three ball symbol (shown below) allows consumers to quickly know that the shop is a pawn shop. The symbol dates back to medieval times, developed originally in Italy before spreading throughout Europe and England.
One of the more fun trademark battlegrounds is found at every local bar with a good selection of beers on tap (or a good selection of liquor bottles displayed on a back wall). Many consumers will find the tap of their favorite beer and instantly order it. Others, looking to try a new beer, may look at the different taps and make their selection based on which one has an interesting design, or a clever or funny name (I am a sucker for beers with clever or funny names).
Beer taps are always right next to each other, with little breathing room. It is important for brewers to attract the eye of potential customers by developing unique taps or relying on long standing brand recognition, such as is the case with Guinness, a beer that has been around since 1759!
As mentioned above, supermarkets consist of aisle after aisle of trademark battlegrounds. The cereal, soda, snacks, bread, dairy aisles are filled with many different brands competing to catch the eye of the same consumers.
Supermarkets, and retail stores such as Wal-Mart, require companies to do anything they can to stand out, establish a famous brand and attract repeat customers. A clever trademark is great, but if the product or price is not right, then the customers are not going to buy from that brand again.
Smartphone apps are integral to nearly everyone’s life at this point. App marketplaces, such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, are a new trademark battleground that companies and brands are targeting. Companies ranging from social media services to “freemium” games are trying to create brands and app icons that stand out. Since apps depend on consumer downloads, app developers need to have catchy names for their apps and icons that are pleasing to users.
Do you know of any trademark battlegrounds not listed above? Leave it in the comments below!
If you have any questions about how to protect your brand in a trademark battleground, contact us today for a Free Trademark Consultation and one of our attorneys will reach out to you soon.