Aloha Poke Holdings, LLC of Chicago sent out a bunch of nastygrams to all sorts of people who were using ALOHA as a trademark. Aloha Poke was called out on social media and apologized, which is entirely appropriate because they seriously overreached.
Owning a trademark doesn’t give you the right to stop people from using the trademark for stuff that’s sufficiently different from your stuff.
How different is “sufficiently different”? That depends. If your trademark is used by lots of people, then the stuff doesn’t have to be very different at all:
- If your trademark for cabinets is used in lots of trademarks, then someone could probably get away with using it for furniture.
- If your trademark for cabinets is really rare, then no one else could use it for most stuff that goes into houses.
How commonplace is ALOHA? There are 1100 applications and registrations that contain the word ALOHA, including these for restaurants and restaurant services:
|ALOHA CUP BAP||Application|
|ALOHA HAWAIIAN BBQ||Application|
|ALOHA MAUI YOGURT||Application|
|ALOHA HAWAIIAN BBQ||Registration|
|ONE OHANA SHARING ALOHA||Registration|
|ALOHA WOW WOW HAWAIIAN LEMONADES||Registration|
|TASTE THE ALOHA||Registration|
|ALOHA SERVED DAILY||Registration|
|ALOHA SPOKEN HERE||Registration|
Aloha Poke chose to go to bat with a toothpick instead of a baseball bat. How do you make sure your trademark rights are baseball-bat strong? Easy. Don’t pick commonplace words:
- No names of gods, trees, constellations, familiar animals.
- No common words in any language: ALOHA, CIAO, SHALOM, ADIOS, SALUD.
Anyone can have a strong trademark. You just have to pick the baseball bat over the toothpick.