You may remember my earlier post about Mr. Douglas Lehocky, who spent about $50,000 during Thanksgiving week of 2014 to register things like:
- ELTON JOHN
- THE ROLLING STONES
I told you then that all his applications were heading for the grave and that the self-styled Trademark King’s misunderstanding of trademark law has cost him dearly, much like Richard III at Bosworth field.
As of today, 96 of the applications are dead and gone. I’ll check back in another month or so and let you know how many more have died. None of them stand a chance. It’s just a matter of time.
In 2013, some guys in Georgia ditched their careers to make beer. They wisely filed to register their seriously awesome trademark: LEFT NUT BREWING CO.
Unwisely, the Trademark Office examiner refused their application because she thought a substantial composite of the general public would consider their trademark shocking to the sense of decency.
I’m not making this up.
The examiner wouldn’t relent, so the guys had to appeal.
Their problem is our pleasure, because this resulted in some brilliant advocacy by Mr. Peter E. Morgan for the applicant, who took issue with the examiner’s reliance on cases concerning “jack-off” and “cocksucker,” which have no non-vulgar meanings while noting that “left nut” has many non-vulgar meanings which the examiner chose to ignore.
Mr. Morgan also respectfully offered that the word “nut,” even when used to refer to a testicle, has not been considered vulgar for many years, if ever. Mr. Morgan submitted a variety of evidence to support this:
- “Nut” is not among the famous seven dirty words of George Carlin.
- There are lots of registrations with “nut” already, including YANK DEEZ NUTS, CHOKE ON THESE NUTS, and MY HUSBAND’S NUTS.
Mr. Morgan also turned the examiner’s reliance on Urban Dictionary on its head: To “the extent . . . Urban Dictionary has any value at all, it is to show that contemporary attitudes are very permissive of crude humor.”
I’ve written about terrible trademarks and awful lawyering, but right now wouldn’t you give your left nut to be a trademark lawyer?
Wouldn’t it be great if people started using your trademark as the word for what you’re selling?
- “Google it.”
- “I need a Kleenex.”
- “I’d like a Coke, please.”
But Google, Kimberly-Clark, and CocaCola want you to know they spend plenty of time and money to make sure their trademarks don’t become the next linoleum, thermos, or escalator.
Here’s what the owners of those trademarks want you to say:
- “Use Google® to search for it.”
- “May I have a tissue?”
- “I’d like a Coke®, please.” “We have Pepsi® products.” “In that case, I’ll have tap water.”
Because those companies know that becoming a generic word means their rights go *poof*. Suddenly, one of their most valuable assets falls into the public domain. Everyone can use it, including their competitors.
You want everyone to know your brand, love your brand, want your brand. But you never want them to verb your brand. Because then it won’t be your brand anymore. Because “too much of a good thing” is a real thing.
So, go on out there and make your trademark famous, just not that kind of famous.