Trademarks are tremendously important for businesses and are simply a prerequisite for protecting the identity of one’s brand. Indeed, only businesses with trademarks have the legal right and ability to fight competing companies that have misappropriated their brand assets.
To further increase one’s legal rights and chances of success against an infringing company, the trademark should be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
While there are of course many instances of legal battles surrounding trademark infringement, several cases are particularly important and instructive to consider. Remember, very often, trademark infringement may not even be intentional. So, here are some trademark cases that you can learn from:
Four trademark case studies
- Jack Daniel’s vs. Patrick Wensink: This case was between the famous author, Patrick Wensink, and the renowned Whiskey brand, Jack Daniel’s.
The author published a book with a cover that was identical to Jack Daniel’s trademark, and the brand, rightfully so, objected to this infringement. However, their reaction was strategic and gentle, first sending a friendly letter instead of the usual threatening legalese to Peter Wensink, stating that he should change the cover. If he did, the brand would financially support his work. This reaction further put Jack Daniel’s in the spotlight, serving as a great marketing tool, after Patrick Wensink published it on his website.
- Marvel and DC vs. Indie publishers and others: The two brands, Marvel, and DC, have taken control of the word “superhero” as a trademark, and any other comic book publisher who tries to use this word will have to answer to them. There have been so many cases on this issue that some people refer to it as trademark bullying. But whatever it is, try to avoid the use of “superhero” when branding your products or services.
- The Doublemint case: In Europe, the Wrigley brand, the gum-making company, wanted to register “Doublemint” as their trademark, but the mark, unfortunately, was rejected. The reason was that, according to the European court of justice’s advocate general, the word “Double” was not a sufficiently novel qualifying word to render the word “mint” distinct and therefore worthy of trademark protection. In essence, your trademark will not warrant trademark protection if it does not contain a sufficient degree of imagination, which distinguishes your product or service as originating from your company.
- GrabTaxi rebranding case: GrabTaxi, a company that was offering only taxi services, had to rebrand its services to “Grab” to include delivery services, private cars, and carpooling services. The rebranding required not just a new name but a new logo and design. Again, trademarks must be distinct and cover not only a company’s brand but also other elements of its brand identity including logos and phrases.
Hopefully, it is obvious from the above cases that having a trademark is hugely important for your business. To protect and fight for your rights, you need to have a registered trademark.
A trademark is a brand’s identity and must be protected at all costs. There are so many benefits of having a trademark, including:
Benefits of having a trademark
- A trademark fundamentally protects the brand. Having a name, logo, or design that is unique to only your company helps create a unique commercial impression which is marketable and hopefully profitable
- A trademark gives you proprietary rights to a specific name in a specific industry
- It differentiates you from the competition, making it easier for your consumers to find you.
- The value of your trademark can boost your brand’s reputation.
- Your trademark, depending on its value, can help you to obtain a loan for your business. In other words, your trademark can become a legitimate financial asset that can be sold, licensed, and traded upon.
- A registered trademark gives you the right to use any other brand that tries to copy your identity.
- A trademark acts as a communication tool, sending messages about you, the company, products, and services offered and its value to the general public.
Ultimately, it is hard to overstate the importance of having a strong brand identity, fortified with a registered trademark. Trademark infringements are all too common and it is critical that companies handle them both professionally and sensibly. The Jack Daniels case discussed earlier in this article illustrates an excellent, archetype response for how to amicably, but forcefully, enforce one’s rights. Remember, a company’s brand identity is its most important asset. Protect it.
Are there any other trademark cases you would love us to know? Feel free to share it with us in the comment box.