Destination: En-Why-Cee

I took my daughters to New York for spring break to look at colleges. On our visit to Manhattan to see NYU (very nice but way too big and diffuse for my western suburbanites), I insisted on a Mom’s view of Manhattan tour – that is, walking absolutely everywhere. So we shlepped on foot from Grand Central to Washington Square Park (where lunch at Otto was a deserved reward for said shlepping); and of course, shlepped back to catch our train back to Westchester.

The return trip allowed me to show the girls one of my favorite stores in New York, Fishs Eddy. Retro and retro-style kitchenware and tchotchkes – this place has the best selection.

And they also have a classic double-entendre slogan:

That’s “We do dishes.” Just outstanding. FYI, the haul (which I am certain TSA enjoyed going through in my luggage on the return trip) included a couple of gems: a fish scaler, which is just in time for Copper River salmon season, and an olive spoon (so you can reach in the jar and not take out brine when you’re mixing up martinis).

Knowing they ship? That’s good, but Manhattan’s still a nice place to visit even though I don’t want to live there anymore!

The rest of the May Birchbox

I’m not even sure there was a theme this month, but there were laughs. This item, in particular, had me roaring:

Why? Because I LITERALLY CANNOT READ WHAT THE BOTTLE SAYS! So much for targeting the product to my age group. According to the Birchbox insert, this product is called Beauty Protector (a snooze of a name if I ever heard one), and its purpose is to lock in color, add shine, and detangle my hair.

Next, we have a product that sounds Australian, but isn’t:

That’s COOLA, if you can’t see it. Coola, according to the website, is a company that’s “passionate about making healthy sunscreens people love to wear.” I’m not sure what constitutes a “healthy sunscreen” (and I’m sure the FTC could weigh in), and I know Nancy would have something to say about the passion aspect – but the bottom line is that I live in Denver. I need sunscreen most days of the year, and if Coola wants to “spoil [my] sometimes finicky, always worthy skin,” I will let them try their damnedest.

Next, however, we have another not particularly interesting name:

“Folle de joie” means crazy with joy. It gets a big meh on the naming front, but it smells kind of nice, so we’ll see if it passes the migraine test.

Finally, there’s a lovely eyeliner with an interesting naming scheme:

Sumita appears to be a division of Ziba Beauty, and offers a number of eyeliners, all with what appear to be Indian-inspired names. This black eyeliner is “suman,” while other color names include bhura, hansa, and mansha. I’m always all in for eyeliner.

Happy Memorial Day!

May Birchbox – Geek diversion

This month’s Birchbox allows me to dive deep into the nuances of trademark law – so deep that I’m going to save the rest for another day. I’m sure you’ll be glad to have taken the plunge with me, though. Here goes:

This is a sample of YesTo Grapefruit products. If you’re familiar with the YesTo line, you know that they feature a number of fruits and vegetables to which we’re saying yes – e.g., carrots and blueberries. From a trademark perspective, however, these marks could be a bit troublesome; as I see it, these narrowly skirt the fate of being deemed a dreaded PHANTOM mark! (No, not this Phantom.)

What is a phantom mark? According to the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure, a phantom mark is one that contains an element “that is subject to change.” The reasoning for the prohibition against such registrations is to “accurately reflect the mark that is used in commerce, so that someone who searches the register for a similar mark will locate the registration,” and that a mark that is missing elements “will encompass too many combinations and permutations to make a thorough and effective search possible.” TMEP § 1214.01

So how do the YesTo folks get around the phantom mark problem? By almost, but not quite, mutilating their trademarks. Yes, yet another somewhat obscure trademark rule holds that a mark must be “complete”; that is, the mark in the drawing must reflect the mark that appears in the specimen. Here is the PTO drawing of the YES TO mark followed by the mark as it appears on the products:

Trademark image
As you can see, there’s a “flavor” under the YES TO logo on each package – here, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, or blueberries. But that flavor isn’t, according to the PTO, part of the registered trademark. I’ll tell you what I think: I think YesTo sat down with its trademark lawyers and had a nice long talk about how to ensure its marks could be registrable and protectable and how to avoid both the phantom mark and mutilation problems – and switched to this new logo, which emphasizes the YES TO and clearly shows the fruit or vegetable as a variety name. But what about the little tomato, carrot, cucumber, or blueberry that appears right above “to” in the logo? Isn’t that part of the logo? I suspect the YesTo argument is that the little picture is also a variety designator and not part of the YesTo logo.

Well-played – but look at what you have to go through to get registration with a mark like this! 

More from the rest of the May Birchbox selection soon!

Mal traduit?

A café in France is not at all the same as a coffee house. Did Keurig confuse Paris with Vienna in this ad campaign? In Paris we have cafés, not coffee houses, and the coffee in cafés has never been anything to celebrate, in my experience.

David Lebovitz, one of my favorite food bloggers and cookbook authors, has long bemoaned the dismal state of coffee in Paris; in fact, in The Sweet Life in Paris, a book I adore, he consecrated an entire chapter to it, and called Parisian coffee “murky black sludge” and “donkey piss” (pipi d’âne?) So I just don’t know how Keurig came up with this misplaced tribute.
On the other hand, I do know exactly where this photo was taken – at the corner of the rue St. Dominique and Avenue Bosquet, in the 7th arrondissement. The full photo (and I apologize for chopping it off) shows a café called “Le Recrutement” – one that we memorialized in a photo back in 2004 that graces our kitchen today. So while I can nitpick the M.O. of the ad, I can’t quibble with its location at all.

A quick dip

Yes, I’ve been a slacker. Many apologies. Mid-April to mid-May has been a trying time this year, but I’m trying (see what I did there?) to overcome it.

Meanwhile, this is not a real post per se – no pictures or fun brands, but I just wanted to link to this article on wine tasting, since it provides an excellent example of what we trademark lawyer geeks call use of a mark (here, Big Mac) other than as a mark. 

Enjoy, and I’ll be back with Birchbox blogging soon.