Procter and Gamble Company[1] has applied to register some interesting trademarks:

  • FOMO
  • TL;DR
  • NSFW
  • FTW
  • FML
  • WTF
  • LOL
  • NBD

Does that mean people can’t use those acronyms anymore?

Common sense tells you it doesn’t mean that.

First, trademark applications and registrations are for particular goods and/or services: Beeline® is a registered trademark for legal services. The P&G applications cover things like soaps, detergents, air fresheners, and fabric softeners.

If P&G has a trademark registration for WTF for detergents it means only that you wouldn’t be allowed to use WTF as a trademark to sell detergent and similar products:

  • You can still say WTF;
  • You can still use WTF in advertising and on packaging for dissimilar products;
  • You can still write an email to your friend saying “WTF is wrong with you? You know I use only Woolite® to wash my sweaters. You ruined my twin set.”

It’s also worth noting that P&G hasn’t received these registrations yet. So far, P&G has only applied. The applications are all based on “intent-to-use.” That means that P&G still has to use each of the acronyms in connection with the goods before they can complete the registrations.  In other words, the existence of the applications means only that P&G was willing to pay to create placeholders because it intends to use each of the acronyms to sell stuff. Sometimes, companies don’t follow through on their intentions.

So, DWAI. IMHO P&G’s applications are NP and worrying about this is a CWOT.




[1] As of August 2018, Procter and Gamble Company owns 1,498 live trademark registrations. Amusingly there are also some live registrations where “Procter” is misspelled as “Proctor.” Not sure what to make of that.

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