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.