I often find myself having to explain to clients that the first person to invent something that creates a wholly new category doesn’t also get to protect the name of the invention. My favorite example is cookie dough ice cream – great idea, but the company that first created the taste sensation may not prohibit its competitors from calling their products by that name.
Moreover, under US trademark law, abbreviations for descriptive or generic terms are not entitled to trademark protection. For example, “TV” is no more protectable than “television,” and “BLT” no more protectable than “bacon, lettuce and tomato.” (Mmm . . . bacon . . . )
That’s apparently not the case in France. One of the finest culinary joys you can experience in France is in the candy department: caramel au beurre salé
, or in English, salted butter caramel. The caramel can be found all over France, not only in the form of candies, but also as an ice cream flavor or filling for a pastry (try the Aoki tarte featured here).
Self-styled “caramelier” and chocolatier Henri Le Roux claims to have created the delicious substance back in 1977. But he took the creation a step further, and sought and received trademark protection for the mark “CBS” to cover “Chocolats, glaces comestibles, crêpes, biscuiterie, gâteaux, sucreries, à base de caramel au beurre salé.” Let’s just say that that wouldn’t fly at all here in the US, and it’s a reminder that every country’s laws regarding trademark protection vary.
Nonetheless, bravo, Henri: Keep the caramel coming even though you’re overreaching on the trademark front!
H/t David Lebovitz