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Love it or leave it? Uber’s new logo

Posted by ipelton on: February 10th, 2016

Uber last week unveiled a new logo and design package.

Uber's new rider icon (left) and partner icon (right).

The new logo fails for a variety of reasons:

  • There was nothing wrong with the old logo. Perhaps just a splash of color added to it would have been nice, but an overhaul was unnecessary.
  • The new logo doesn’t communication ANYTHING about the services offered
  • The new logo doesn’t even feature a “U.”
  • The new logo doesn’t hearken back to the prior logo in any manner.
  • The main design is apparently a “bit” of information/technology. But Uber helps people in the physical world primarily. Yes, it is an app and technlogy that makes the help possible, but when I think of Uber I think of cars and rides.
  • How is anyone unfamiliar with the brand, upon seeing the logo, supposed to know what business it is for and what they do?

While I dislike the new logo and the decision to change it, there are a few things I do like about it:

  • The background designs are subtle and nice and suggest roads or traffic.
  • Uber Technologies filed multiple trademark application with the USPTO last week for the new designs and logos.

Altogether, the new design seems unneeded and not a good fit for the brand at this time.

An article I recently co-authored with Elizabeth M. Dukette (a recent law student intern at our firm) has been published by the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law in its LANDSLIDE magazine.

’Cause They Never Go Out of Style: Why Musicians Are Registering More Trademarks Than Ever

“[O]btaining trademark registrations in a band name or other marks used by an artist can be useful to protect profits and prevent the dilution of a valuable brand. Further, taking the steps to clearly identify who owns what part of that bundle of rights upon dissolution could prevent long, expensive, and potentially damaging litigation.”

FireShot Screen Capture #927 - 'Meeting of the Minds—’Cause They Never Go Out of Style_ Why Musicians Are Registering More Trademarks Than Ever I Section of Intellectual Property Law

The article discussed efforts by musicians to protect their brands, as well as frequent trademark pitfalls that they often encounter. The article discusses why trademark registration is valuable when it is available for musicians and other artists.

Please enjoy and share the article, and let me know any feedback you have in the comments below.

5 trademark lessons from this year’s Super Bowl® ads

Posted by ipelton on: February 8th, 2016

As usual, the commercials featured during the Super Bowl broadcast on Sunday night garnered a lot of attention. After all, they were generally new, featured a lot of celebrity appearances, and cost a fortune to produce and run. This year’s commercial’s provide some terrific lessons for businesses about managing their trademarks. Here are my top five takeaways:

  1. Use the trademark symbol. Ad execs frequently leave off the TM or ® for stylistic reasons. But when the brand exposure it at its biggest on a stage such as the Super Bowl, there is a tremendous value in using the proper symbol as it provides both legal protections and warnings, and a signal to consumers that this is proprietary, unique, and important. Many of the ads run last night featured prominent uses of trademark symbols. For example, Taco bell made sure that its new Queslupa™ appeared in a special font and featured the ™. For smaller business, using the trademark symbols on website headers, social media, and product packaging are all prominent and valuable.
  2. File trademark applications as early as possible. Taco Bell launched the Quesalupa™ today, the day after it was featured in a Super Bowl commercial. But the USPTO application to protect the name was filed in November of 2014. That means that Taco Bell’s rights in the name don’t begin today or yesterday, they began more than 14 months ago. If anyone had come up with a confusingly similar name for a related product in the interim on purpose or by accident, Taco Bell may have been able to stop them. Similarly, Quicken Loans filed to protect Rocket Mortgage in September of 2014. Even filing just before a business publicly launches a new name is better than waiting until afterwards. For example, Marmot filed to protect the new “Fall in Love with the Outside” slogan just 10 days before Sunday’s game.
  3. Creative names stick better. Rocket Mortgage, Quesalupa, Axe, FitBit, and others are smart coined or suggestive words. They are much more fun and memorable than “Easy Mortgage,” “Fitness Bracelet,” “Breakfast Quesadilla”, or “Scented Body Spray.”
  4. Emphasize distinctive slogans or shapes. The Heinz  “Weiner Stampede” commercial was chosen as one of the top ads by many. It features the visual of the Heinz bottle shape and keystone logo, both of which are iconic and well marketed to associate customers to the product without even having to use words. But words can be powerful too, particularly slogans that tell customers more about a product or service. Here in Washington, DC, Michael and Son ran a commercial that featured a famous boxing champ saying and singing its slogan, If you can’t, we can! {Full disclosure – the slogan was registered with the USPTO by our firm.}
  5. Plaster your brand everywhere you can. During the halftime show, the Pespsi logo received tremendous exposure as it was in a commercial, on signs held by fans on the field, in the corner of the television broadcast, and on the background of the stadium behind the performers. To get your brand to stick and leave a memorable impression, use your trademarks as often as possible in places such as business cards, email signatures, letterhead, product labels, newsletters, and more.

The Super Bowl story can be written from many angles, both on the field an off. It turns out that brand owners could learn a lot from the commercials on Sunday if they paid attention and use these tips in their business.

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NFL Opposes trademark for “SUPERB OWL” running events

Posted by ipelton on: February 5th, 2016

I have written about the NFL on many occasions on this blog, including their over-protective actions regarding use of the SUPER BOWL® name by others.

Now the NFL has objected to registration of SUPERB OWL (see what they did there!) for running events from The Night Run. One of their specimens of use submitted to the USPTO is displayed below.

The SUPERB OWL application Serial No. 86339567 can be found here.

The NFL’s opposition, TTAB proceeding No. 91222783, can be found here.

The NFL’s claim here may not be so crazy, but it is worth it? Is the negative publicity worthwhile to stop one small running event? Is their potential damage to the NFL’s brand by this event and trademark?  Is there a Streisand Effect potential for the NFL? Of course, there are questions on the other side too: is it really worth the expense and hassle of dealing with the NFL? did they seek legal advice before adopting the name and applying with the USPTO?

I’m really not sure what to make of this one, except to note that it indicates that whole mess about the NFL’s enforcement of the SUPER BOWL trademark is not going away any time soon, unless the NFL makes a major change of course and realizes that its brand is safe and most of the situations it objection to are harmless.

https://tsdrsec.uspto.gov/ts/cd/casedoc/sn86339567/SPE20141110172542/3/webcontent?scale=1

Stephen Colbert once had a great piece about using “Superb Owl” as well. See video here.

Uber just unveiled a re-branding with a new logo. I will blog separately about that. But it got me thinking about the rise in the use of the word “uber.” How many elevator pitches over the last 5 years began with “it’s like Uber, for X” where X equaled janitors, jokes, concerts, lawyers, or something else.

We can use the USPTO application records to demonstrate the rise in the “Uber” craze.

In the entire 20th Century, there were 15 USPTO applications filed that featured the word “uber.”

In 2015, there were 90 applications featuring the term, and only 4 of them were filed by Uber Technologies, the company behind the car service. In 2014, the number was 58. In 2010, it was 36.

In 2002, there were 5 applications with the word “uber” in them. The number grew slowly but steadily. By 2007, there were 22 applications featuring “uber.” By 2014 there were 58. And then the 90 filed last year.

Uber Technologies has filed several TTAB proceedings, but not as many as you might think. See, the prevalence of “uber” could be a good thing because it keeps their name on the tips of people tongues, unless the other use(s) weaken the Uber brand.  And at some point if there are many other people using the word in trademarks, it can become very difficult (and expensive) to try to enforce trademark rights. Twitter was in a similar conundrum at one point.

Finding the right line between, on the one hand embracing being popular and having a name and business that lots of others want to emulate, and on the other hand enforcing trademark rights against real threats to a growing successful brand can be a difficult challenge. Perhaps if Uber had been a little more aggressive early on, its would have had less imitators using brands that feature the word “Uber” and would also have an easier time dealing with any potentially infringing parties.