The stairwell of the apartment we rented in Paris held this trademark gem:

13510459_10209423753172022_1902973996_n

You would think this would be a shining example of a brand that’s absolutely incapable of crossing the Atlantic thanks to its English meaning. (I’m not sure if its significance is the same to British English speakers; if it is, the poor mark shouldn’t even be able to cross the Channel!) However, the mark has been registered here in the US, and Puky products are apparently available for sale here in the US. I just can’t imagine how successful a product bearing that name could be. Then again, Acne Jeans are so hot these days …

 

Craft beer sales in the US, which in 2012 commanded 10% of the beer market, have reached 19% as of this year. And as this linked article indicates, it’s a battle out there between Big Beer and craft breweries to control that market. So the corporate conglomerates are trying to find interesting messaging for attracting drinkers to those mass market beers. Like this:

Stella

Now I’m all about Stella’s ad copy here (omitted due to my incompetent photo skills) – it reads “Raising the bar and everyone in it. For over 600 years.” 600 years of brewing is a long time, and you get a nice pat on the back for it. But “Be Legacy“? I suspect they’re trying to convey the message that classic or traditional or old and well-known beers should be valued for that history, which again, is a laudable sentiment. But “legacy” seems overly subtle to me. And if the “Be” part is meant to suggest Belgium, and that tagline then means Belgian Legacy, well, that’s way too subtle!

 

 

Thanks to the INTA annual meeting in May and the Rocky Mountain IP and Technology Institute in June, my brain is chock-full of trademark knowledge and case law. Hence my having to take a snap of this establishment’s name immediately:

Freezbee

That’s FreezBee, for frozen yogurt. So, if we were in the US, would that be dilution? Likelihood of dilution? Does dilution even exist? What dilutive harm could the owner of the trademark possibly assert? This may all be academic, as it looks like the FRISBEE trademark may have fallen to generic status, and its ownership is certainly flaky. Still, it’s a fun fact pattern, and evidence of where my brain goes even on vacation in Paris.

I spent my junior year of college in Paris, on Middlebury College’s year abroad program. It was an amazing, eye-opening, exciting and educational year. I made friends who are among my closest today; I honed my French, became an honorary Paris native, saw old movies, learned how to drink –  basically all one could want from a year abroad.

It’s clear to me now that my destiny as a trademark lawyer was being forged even back then – back in the early 80s, long before I thought about law school. Why? Because I was obsessed with the (then and now) hilarious English-esque brands adopted by French companies. This one never failed to elicit gales of laughter:

Flunch

We native English speakers simply couldn’t resist genericizing the term, e.g., “where should we flunch?” Yet somehow, we could never bring ourselves to flunch at Flunch. Grim fast food just wasn’t on our agenda, which probably predicted the foodies some of us are today. I’m still always amazed by the throngs in Paris at Flunch and McDo’ and their ilk. I can’t believe Flunch is still alive – but I’m glad it is so that I can relive the chuckles of my college days.

Levy summer vacation time! Yippee! This year, Paris via Copenhagen. Why Copenhagen again? Because we loved it last summer, and it was the cheapest fare from Denver. Our girls loved Tivoli, we rekindled our romance with herring at Restaurant Amalie, and generally cracked ourselves up at the incomprehensible and impenetrable Danish language.

Also, chewy candy cars:

bilar candy cars

Stay tuned for more European branding antics!

I think we’re moving past pink and frilly to encouraging full-on addiction:

comfort wine

Comfort wine / it’s anodyne /it’s not going to tax your palate / it’s just going to slide down your gullet!

Don’t get me wrong – I like my wine just fine, though two glasses are about my limit these days. But I’m midway through this excellent memoir of alcoholic life by Sarah Hepola, and really do think that some of the mommy wine marketing can be seductively destructive. Plus, I’m a wine snob, so trumpeting a chardonnay’s sweetness through the “custard” designation is never going to appeal.

I couldn’t even bring myself to buy it to determine if “custard” was accurate, because I was too embarrassed to be seen buying “comfort wine,” even for research purposes!

 

As if the placement of this display of paperware right in between Manischewitz matzo and Gefen tuna in the Passover aisle of my local King Sooper’s weren’t sufficiently offensive, check out the brand name of the paper products:

Across from what

I’m guessing that the store’s large Orthodox customer base won’t let the display remain there for long. As far as the brand name, though – that’s sheer coincidence.

Women, that is. And in light of today’s high-stakes oral argument in the Supreme Court over access to abortion , I am posting again because Ithink it worthwhile to highlight this excellent marketing campaign for an IUD:

SKYLA

SKYLA as a mark is youthful, calling to mind the (IMHO incomprehensible but whatever) millennial craze for the name “Skylar” (and its equally icky spelling variants). But what I really like here is the “Plans prioritized” tagline. It’s an alliterative tribute to Planned Parenthood, while at the same time being nicely communicative.

Reproductive rights are human rights, and I am hopeful the Supremes will continue to recognize that fact and turn the states away from their march to the back alleys of the past.

Doesn’t this ad really just say “hey, ladies, it’s okay to drink alone?”

Santa Margherita

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why not make it explicit rather than a hidden message on a bottle?

The big island of Hawaii: Hiking through Volcanoes National Park on ground younger than I am; unbelievable fresh fish; whale watching; the rainbow of tropical fish visible to even the novice snorkeler … basically, it’s paradise.

Also, if you forgot your own, you can buy or rent one, apparently:

AllAboutBabies

You would think that in naming a product, maybe it would be wise to avoid a euphemism for excrement, right? Seems like that’s a basic proposition that everyone can agree on, right? Well, apparently you’d be wrong. I don’t know why these folks chose CAcafe as their trademark, but I can promise you that capitalizing the first two letters doesn’t stop me from seeing the caca here:

cacafe

Apparently, others are on to the caca too.

 

 

Sometimes you honestly don’t know where product brand names come from, especially if you’re a bargain shopper like I am and you frequent off-brand, low price establishments like TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning (the latter of which makes me really feel like I’m slumming it). So often at such stores it’s a challenge to separate the wheat from the knockoff chaff. So when I saw this one I was pretty confident it was chaff:

GELA

Where do I begin? Well, how about Sicily? Gela is a small city on the southwest coast of Sicily that is the home of a huge oil refinery. Which therefore makes it the Secaucus of Sicily, and Gela is only prettier because – hey – Sicily v. New Jersey in a cage fight isn’t even remotely fair.

Thus, having been to Gela, I can’t ever consider it a lovely brand name for any product. And I figure that any company that named its product Gela had never been to Gela, and if they weren’t smart enough to research the name of a pretty town in Sicily – of which there are many – for their product, then I can’t trust them to make a product that is worth my investment.

Not sure if everyone else views things my way, but I’m sticking to it!

Catching up again … Great trademarks, in my view, suggest something interesting about the product they’re designating, without telling the consumer exactly what the product is. These two magazine names are among the best I’ve ever seen:

sift

This is King Arthur Flour’s magazine, and I can’t think of a more evocative name to convey the magazine’s mission – to provide baking information and inspiration. SIFT is an example of a mark that, while it is indeed descriptive of a microscopic and discrete aspect of the goods/services identified, nonetheless effectively communicates something evocative about what it identifies, yet without describing what the goods are.

So all hail King Arthur for SIFT!

In a different vein, we have LUCKY PEACH:

lucky peach

What a great magazine name! At best all I can get from the title is that it might have something to do with food; when I look up their website I see a standard food and cooking site. Yet at the same time, any website that runs a feature on the snackability of Trader Joe’s offerings is right up my alley. So as a brand junkie, I can state with confidence that I am far more likely to grab an issue of LUCKY PEACH off the rack at Whole Foods than I am to pick up Real Simple or Bon Appétit.

Don’t get me wrong – as the daughter of a charter subscriber to both New York and Automobile magazines, I understand the value of a descriptive name for a magazine. But sometimes, breaking free from descriptiveness can work for a magazine, I promise!

Apologies for the hiatus. Getting daughter #2 into college is no less time-consuming than #1 was. Stay tuned.

So here’s something from a weekend in Ventura, California this summer:

wienerschnitzel

Crappy photography, but it’s Wienerschnitzel, “The World’s Largest Hot Dog Chain.” Ummm, isn’t Wiener Schnitzel that delicious dish of breaded and pounded veal made famous in Vienna (hence Wiener)? Why yes it is. How did we get from veal to drive-through hot dogs? Well, we borrowed wiener for hot dog long ago and its use was made ubiquitous in the Oscar Mayer Wiener jingle that pretty much anyone of a certain generation can sing start to finish. I am guessing that this is one of those situations where Americans hear a certain foreign phrase and use it irrespective of whether it means what they think it means. That is, they hear wiener and know they’ve heard wienerschnitzel so assume the two are related and why not name the wiener joint something that sounds foreign?

Well, they are related, but from a trademark perspective I actually think the name is deceptively misdescriptive! If I see a place called Wienerschnitzel, because I know what real Wiener Schnitzel is, I’m going to be disappointed when I find there’s none on the menu. But once again, I suspect I’m not the target demographic. And what those who haven’t tasted the real thing don’t know won’t hurt them.