Lax blogging. Trying to get back in the saddle again. So:

A much-belated update on the family job front. My dear husband is now a partner of Seed IP Law Group, in Seattle. BUT WE DIDN’T MOVE THERE! How is that possible, you ask? Technology, my friends. Marc is connected to the office and spends a week there a month, but works 75% of the time out of our home office. He’s loving it and we’re loving reconnecting with friends and family and former colleagues in the city where we spent over 15 years of our lives together.

Why am I boring you with this? Because trademarks and stuff, of course! Pop culture!

Pop culture first, of course. Food shopping at New Seasons, the gourmet supermarket on Mercer Island that had the nerve to open only after we moved away:

Yep, they’re pretty insistent about the local provenance of their goods. Kinda made me think of this. It’s local.

Next, there’s the witty, pop-culture-referential advertising for the Puget Sound Trip Planner App:

Bad photo. It says, at the bottom, “Wherever you go, there we are.” I cannot resist a Buckaroo Banzai reference.

Finally, not even in Seattle but just because, here I manage to hit two of my main sweet spots, Francophilia and grammar/spelling errors:

WTF, people, fromage is masculine. So just because you want to be even cutesier, even Frenchier, that doesn’t mean that you make petit into petite. THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS! (This is a line we’re going to be repeating a lot these days, I fear.)

Anyway, happy New Year from the blog! This year in Barcelona, for all you INTA folks!

 

Wandering up and down Michigan Avenue, awaiting my husband’s arrival for his father’s funeral, I managed to find levity (or at least levity sufficient to float my boat, if nobody else’s) in branding at Sur la Table, a store I adore:

baked

As trademarks for baking dishes go, I have to give BAKED a thumbs-down. But Baked Occasions as a cookbook name? BAKED as a mark that is suggestive for Colorado and Washington, and now a few more states? Yeah, that just might work.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

With the usual apologies for the blogging drought, where has summer gone, etc. etc.

Now, I haven’t broken out the ladybrain in some time, but the skyrocketing popularity of rosé wine offers a few more names that skew feminine or girly. Here’s one that was a pleasant surprise despite its packaging:

Wild Thing rose

The name, the flowers, the “Rendezvous Rosé” blend name – all suggest a weekend without kids, or a bachelorette party, or something otherwise trivial and feminized. Yet this wine is a delicious and spicy but dry carignane blend, and at only 13.5% alcohol it complemented our slapdash dinner nicely but could easily stand on its own as an aperitif.

 

Spotted in Denmark: Two brands that fall into the category that Nancy Friedman calls “imperative-verb business names.” I like to call them hortatory marks.

The first is the fabulous hotel we stayed in, STAY Copenhagen. No, the name wouldn’t work in the US. “Where’d you stay?” “STAY.” “No, I asked you.” You get the picture. No matter, it was a fantastic sleek, Danish modern (duh) hotel where they upgraded us to the penthouse suite for no apparent reason, and where we luxuriated in style with views of the up-and-coming neighborhood and the river. Not to mention the heartbreakingly attractive staff and the cute grocery store downstairs with fresh strawberries to die for … Okay, I digress. But STAY plays cute with its name, as you can see here on the Do Not Disturb sign:

stay copenhagen

And if you plunk around on its website, you’ll see they really leverage the “stay” wording, in a way that I’d hate for a US trademark client but can be much more permissive about where English doesn’t reign entirely supreme.

In the same imperative vein, we were exhorted to have lunch at Yo! Sushi at the Copenhagen airport:

yo sushi

My reaction? More like Yo! I’m still hungry but I have no money left!

 

 

Okay, actually it’s the UK, but really, after you’ve seen the episodes of Arrested Development that take place there, would you really call Epcot’s World Showcase land anything else?

The shopping in all of Epcot is excellent, though there’s always some product name that elicits eye-rolling or guffawing. Like this one, for example:

epcot mint balls

 

I could’ve bought some to see how, exactly, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls would keep me all aglow, but I erred on the side of caution.

And this one, from the Mitsukoshi department store in Epcot’s Japan:

Hi-chew

Naturally, the only reply to the question “Would you like a Hi-Chew?” is “Gesundheit.”

Thanks. Don’t forget to tip your waiter.

Would, or should, anyone really disagree with the proposition that the food you eat should taste good? I think not. But is that proposition on its own worthy of serving as a trademark? To wit:

Food Should Taste GoodW

I note that it’s registered, but think that registration won’t go far to enabling the mark’s owner to prevent others from saying – not using as a trademark – that food, in fact, should taste good. Your mission statement shouldn’t necessarily be the same thing as your trademark.

Similarly, if asked the question set out in this mark (which is registered, despite the absence of the symbol), I’d of course say “hell yeah,” though I wouldn’t necessarily view that question as a mark:

Wanna Betta Butt

While a slogan or catchphrase may be registrable with the PTO (because “Food should taste good” and “Wanna betta butt?” are not technically descriptive of the goods they designate), that doesn’t mean they’re good trademarks. Multiple word brand names do not roll trippingly off the tongue, are difficult to remember and thus susceptible to misidentification,* and ultimately make me think of one of Saturday Night Live’s most memorable fake brands, Oops! I Crapped My Pants!

 

______________________

*Fun fact: I always refer to the women’s clothing store White House¦Black Market as “Black Tie, White Noise,” the name of a (highly underrated, IMHO) David Bowie album.

 

Many years ago, I encountered (and am desperately sorry I cannot remember where) the charming phrase “lying around like a lox.” Anyone who’s seen a full side of lox will find the phrase beautifully evocative. I then extrapolated from that the coinage “loxin’ around the house,” something I do a lot of, often with dogs in tow.

Well, a recent visit to Ulta brought me another variation on the theme:

snoxin

That’s right, snoxin. You’re loxin’? You’re snoozin? You’re both right – you’re SNOXIN!

A visit to the indeed labs (and despite the fancy smooshed “i” and “n” the URL is “indeedlabs.com”) website offers a wealth of other marks to probe, including “Matrixyl 3000 … [with] messenger molecules, Matrikines” and “SYN-AKE … an effective wrinkle smoothing compound”; re the latter, is it short for “synapse ache” or am I just falling into an ingredient name-generation syn-ake pit? See what I did there? Oy. As for Matrikines, that definitely rings of sci-fi and not science to me – perhaps a tribe of female supercows?

Fun fact about “snoxin” as a name? When you say it out loud while shopping at Ulta with your teenaged daughter, you will dissolve into hysterics and people will think you’re crazy.

In any event, would you like a visual aid to better grasp what I now conceive of as snoxin? Because snow’s coming again, and I’m sure we’re going to be back at it soon.

doges snoxin

You’re welcome.

 

I can’t decide what bothers me more about this product name:

woats

Is it (a) that the mark consists merely of the product’s main ingredient, with an additional letter slapped onto it? Or (b) that said mark rhymes with “goats”? Or (c) that when you try to pronounce it your mouth contorts uncomfortably and you’re not sure anyone can understand you? [Try it. I’ll wait. “Want some Woats?” See?] Or (d) that it reminds me of the egregious and (for me, at least) hackle-raising misspelling of “whoa” as “woah”?

I’m afraid it’s (e) All of the above, which is unfortunate, since the founder of the company has some very laudable goals for giving back to the community.