Describe Colonel Sanders

Over the years, different actors have played Colonel SandersTM in commercials for KFC®. Some recent ads feature an animated Colonel Sanders on the side of KFC’s iconic bucket of chicken.

Does KFC need to get a separate trademark registration for each different image of Colonel Sanders?


Trademark registrations protect owners from not only exact copies of their trademarks but also from any use that’s “confusingly similar.” In the case of Colonel Sanders, no one can use a static logo, an animation, or a live actor performance of someone who looks like Colonel Sanders.

What does it mean to look like Colonel Sanders?

Each registration that includes an image also includes a description of the trademark. For example, Apple, Inc.’s logo is described as “an apple with a bite removed.”

The description of the Colonel Sanders trademark in most of the registrations owned by KFC refers to a man with one or more of the following: Goatee, glasses, and bowtie.

Does that mean no one else can use an image of a man with all or some of those elements?


Eastern Kentucky University uses an image of a man with a goatee and bowtie as a logo. The Trademark Office didn’t have a problem with it and, it appears from the Trademark Office record, neither did KFC.

Determining whether a logo is confusingly similar is a bit of an art. That said, KFC’s Colonel Sanders logo is well-protected with the registrations it already owns.

Shout out to Liz B. for asking the question that led to this blog post.

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