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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