July Birchbox

I don’t know, this month’s haul seems to be more the result of perspiration rather than inspiration, in the words of my 10th grade English teacher. 

The theme this months is the senses. First up, I’d say this one is sight and smell: 
Another Color Club nail lacquer. I actually like the color, and it works well on my Sicilian-bronzed fingers, but this stuff is pretty gloppy, so I’ll probably remove it before anyone gets to see my appalling manicure skills.
Next, taste, and this Larabar treat. I’m not going to bother with the umlauts.
But I guess “uber” isn’t a bad name for a fruit and nut bar. It’s certainly not descriptive.
Next, sound. These aren’t even branded, so there’s not much to say other than I love the bright colors and am going to hide these from the kids so they don’t nick them.
Next, we have the core makeup products:
Good name – “jouer” means “to play” in French.
Eyeko, for eyeliner, is another good name. There’s nothing wrong with including a descriptive word as part of the mark if you can transform it into a distinctive trademark. EYE + another descriptive word wouldn’t work, but EYE + KO = a brand that looks and sounds unusual and is thus protectable.
Finally, smell, and another perfume. Or should I say hello?
I’m a bit confused by this one. The text on the left reads “We started Harvey Prince in dedication to our mother, and we craft exceptional fragrances that empower women to feel young, happy, slim, and beautiful.” Their website gives little insight as to how the name became Harvey Prince – all it says is that two brothers founded the company as a tribute to their mother, but they still don’t say who Harvey Prince is or why they named the company Harvey Prince. In fact, a search of the PTO records reveals that the name does not identify a living individual at all.
I am not really comfortable with the idea of two men hawking perfume to make women feel slim. I’m just saying.  Also, one of their other scents is called “Ageless,” and even if you’re paying tribute to your mom, who in your eyes never ages, please keep the word “age” out of it. I’ll give Hello a try, though, and we’ll see if it passes the migraine test.

Drinking with my ladybrain V

I promised; now I’ll deliver. Here it is once again, Nuvo:

I’ve kind of dumbed down the drama of the bottle by photographing it on my dining room chair against my dull gray dining room wall (gotta get that repainted one of these days!) Here’s how it appears on the Nuvo website:
Nuvo Sparkling Liqueur
Definitely a more feminine look than in my photo. Still, this photo doesn’t begin to capture just how electrically pink Nuvo was when I poured it; it’s nearly neon in its intensity.
Nuvo markets itself as “a lifestyle choice for trendy individuals.” (And may I also add that it’s clumsily and incorrectly marked as “NUVO©“?) Whoever those individuals may be, the web copy also advises that drinking Nuvo is for “Celebrating Life Everyday [sic]” and that it “comes housed in a gorgeous, perfume-like bottle that adds flare [sic] and decor to any event.” Again, whatever that means.
So what does it taste like? The site says it’s made with premium French vodka, sparkling white wine, and passion fruit nectar, intended to “dazzle your taste buds and delight your palette [sic].” Dear Reader, I am sad to report that my palate was not delighted. Fizzy vodka with disinfectant is more like it. It’s also very strong, with a kick like wasabi. Lest you think that this is just my own bias, I can promise you that the four other adults who tasted it this weekend also marveled at Nuvo’s harsh and astringent character. The pink perfume flask was definitely deceiving.
A few things I don’t understand, though: The Nuvo website’s “mixology” section suggests mixing Nuvo with … wait for it … more vodka, for a new sensation. Another variation includes mixing tequila with Nuvo, which sounds just disgusting. And while I see from the website that Nuvo is targeting both the “urban lifestyle” and “Latin spice” markets, I have a hard time picturing anyone other than a woman picking up this pink bottle. Perhaps that’s why Nuvo has branched out to add Nuvo Lemon Sorbet, which they refer to as being “sleek like a yellow Lamborghini.” Sleek it may be, but at 25% alcohol, I think I’ll have to pass. 
The good thing about Nuvo? One, despite my kvetching about its taste, it’s a pretty good name – a phonetic spelling of the French word nouveau, so its appearance is really distinctive. And two? It’s a liqueur, so it should stay drinkable for a while after opening, which will enable me to use this with guests as a cocktail conversation piece, if you will. Not bad for an investment of $10! 
(And for Nuvo’s website’s copywriters? Check out this invaluable resource so you don’t make me [sic] again: http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html !)

One step forward …

In case you missed it, there was big news in France a few months ago: the government officially ordered the honorific “Mademoiselle” to be removed as an option from official forms. The origin of the term was effectively “damsel,” which indicated a woman’s status as unmarried, as “Miss” does in comparison to “Mrs.” here. Madame, it appears, will function as “Ms.” does here, to identify adult women regardless of age or marital status. Some in France may balk at the change; I sent an email to a hotel clerk last summer and addressed the woman as Madame Untel (untel being French for “so-and-so”) – but her reply was signed Mademoiselle Untel. Old habits die hard, I guess.

And it seems that old habits die hard in Italy as well, as this new fragrance from Salvatore Ferragamo suggests:
Random internet evidence leads me to conclude that “Signora” is now appropriate in Italian for use with women over the age of 18, regardless of marital status, so I am not sure if this fragrance is designed for a younger market, or if it’s trying to evoke memories of the purity of youth. (I feel icky even typing that.) I’m just not sure it’s either modern or appropriately retro. Ferragamo’s own copy only confuses things further:
Signorina, the new fragrance from Salvatore Ferragamo is the celebration of chic girls with a sophisticated, subtly cheeky and fresh scent signature.
An Italian description I found was pretty much in the same spirit:
Signorina è il profumo giusto per le giovani donne contemporanee, creative e anche un po’ audaci. 
Loosely, that’s “Signorina is the right perfume for young women who are contemporary, creative and a bit daring.” Wow … or not.
I’m studying Italian right now in advance of a summer excursion, so while I will happily pronounce “Signorina” with my best Sophia Loren accent, I nonetheless register my disapproval of the name as anything but contemporary. 

May Birchbox

This month’s Birchbox shipment is sponsored by CW and the show “Gossip Girl.” So I’m thinking what’s inside will not be targeted to my demographic:

Surprise! Gossip Girl trivia contest insert notwithstanding, this month’s haul seems tailor-made for the baby boomers among us rather than Gens X and Y. First up, an old friend:
That’s right, Algenist.  Still not wild about the name, but I’ll take firming and lifting.
Next, Dior. A classic brand, and not a bad idea to get their products out to a new generation. 
I wore Miss Dior perfume years ago (as did my mom), and also dabbled in Diorella and Diorissimo. I think they’ve reformulated the scent, as what I just spritzed on my pulse points is much funkier than the elegant scent I recall, and I will chalk up the migraine that’s sure to ensue to the pursuit of art. Or whatever I want to call this blogging. “Extase,” or “ecstasy,” for the mascara seems to be a tentative reach towards the consumer who has no trouble asking for Asphyxia or Mildew as eyecolor names. Dior’s already gone there with Addict lip glow, so I guess ecstasy is the logical next step.
Finally, confirming that these products really are for old ladies like me, we finish with two products from the Kerastase “Age Premium”* line, the Bain Substantif:
and the Masque Substantif: 
Well, I see “substantif” and think “that means ‘noun’ in French,” and so do my Petit Robert and my Larousse. But what do I know about marketing language? And why do I want a bath or masque on my hair? This all leads me to believe there’s a marketing think tank somewhere where they sit around all day sipping wine and musing over what silly combinations of French words will seduce the American consumer into sealing the purchase decision. [Can I have that job? I’d be really good at it.] Still, I think the French copy wins out here though: do you prefer “shampoo nutri-vitalisant” to “rejuvenating shampoo”? I sure do!

In fact, I have submitted my preferences to Birchbox so that they can refine my monthly selection to provide what they think I’m most likely to purchase. So far they’re getting it mostly right, though I’d say Taylor Swift’s fragrance last month was a bit of a miscue. 
Stay tuned for next month’s haul!

I represent Pacific Bioscience Laboratories in connection with trademark work; they are now
 owned by L’Oreal, which makes Kerastase products.


Drinking with my ladybrain – you were wondering where it went? Have no fear, it’s coming back, now that I found this:

Two thoughts before I even open the bottle: (1) the slogan beneath the brand name reads “L’esprit de Paris.” Je suis desolee, mais je crois que non. And (2) the youngest Levy opined that the bottle top looks like a sippy cup for adults.
Stay tuned for the lowdown on what’s inside the bottle!

Waiting for the markdown

As you know, I am a sucker for lavish misspellings, particularly French ones. I recently bought a globe at T.J. Maxx that featured the continent of “Norta America.” Now I need to stalk my local HomeGoods store (the non-clothing offshoot of T.J. Maxx with a positively awful name, IMHO) until this chef d’oeuvre is reduced from its original price:

Once in a while I think about the treasures I’ll leave my daughters one day: Silver, jewelry, books – and a whole lot of tchotchkes bearing hilarious misspellings. Pretty much me in a nutshell.

Tissue? I hardly even know you.

Quite a while ago I commented on a French toilet paper whose slogan was “one sheet will do,” and concluded that thinking about what that meant made me not want to buy it.

I reach the same conclusion here:
And while I’m still a bit giddy over the correct use of “fewer pieces,” I fear that only happened because someone thought “less pieces left behind” was too much of a tongue-twister.
And while I’m driving this into the ground anyway, why a bear as a toilet paper mascot? Does a bear shit in the woods and use toilet paper?
Commentary isn’t pretty, folks. What can I say?!

March Birchbox

The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!  … Whoops, we’re not reliving The Jerk, so let’s try again: The Birchbox sample box is here!

Let’s take a look:
The box is 5″ x 7″ – quite tiny and mailbox-friendly. Here’s what it looks like when we open it:
When my eldest saw this one she immediately read it as “Superpoop”:
Although a sunscreen wipe would be an incredibly handy item for emergencies, it’s probably not cost-effective to use these instead of your regular sunscreen, particularly in a sunny climate like Denver’s. It’s on sale at Sephora now, eight wipes for $5. (Though I guess with a winter like this one in Seattle, the sun’s sudden appearance could pose an emergency that would make these handy!) On the trademark front, I’d say Supergoop rates a “good,” despite the poop misreading.
Want a name that won’t distinguish you, no matter what your business is? Try Lulu – it’s in widespread use for clothing, cosmetics, restaurants, bands, and many other goods and services. There are so many marks registered for clothing that contain “Lulu” that it’s clear that no single entity can claim the exclusive right to the name in connection with clothing. In the cosmetics field there are fewer registrants than for clothing, but enough to make one (if one were a trademark lawyer, at least) think twice about adopting the name. Well, LuLu Organics forged on nonetheless. Their Hair Powder, or “poudre de cheveux,” bears a legend that made me laugh hysterically:
That’s “FOR HAIR ON DAYS OF UNWASH,” if you can’t read it. I tried to find any information at all about the origin or location of LuLu Organics, but their website is mute as to who or where they are, other than that typing in the URL that appears on their package resolves to  www.luluorganicsnyc.com. I just hope they’re not trying to make “days of unwash” happen. I probably will let one of my girls try this one, because if I do attempt a day of unwash, I wind up resembling the coal-mining members of the Zoolander family. Meanwhile, on the trademark front, I’d just like to see a bit more effort.
Next up, another trademark snooze:
Skin-Smart? Tea forté? Really? The irony here is that the descriptor that follows the trademark is quite snappy: “antioxidant amplifier teas.” And the tagline is good too; I think “Beauty From Within” complies with Nancy’s suggestions for a good slogan. The teas – honey yuzu, cucumber mint, and cherry marzipan – all sound delicious, and I have no beef with their respective purposes: “natural renewal,” “youth recovery,” and “corrective repair” – I could use all of them! I guess my biggest issue is that I don’t really want to be drinking something that has the word “skin” in it! 
Finally, the last photo of goodies:
Color Club – not a bad name for a nail polish brand at all. I have lousy nails on preteen-looking hands, so will let the girls have at this one.
NIA24 – It’s a “niacin-powered skin therapy,” and again, I’d love to have seen a more distinctive trademark here. Still, it’s skin-strengthening, and with the aforementioned Denver sun, I will take all the help I can get.
And last but not least, we have Apothederm stretch mark cream and let’s just say I’m grabbing it, although I’m not wild about the name. “Apothe-” suggests “apothecary,” and that may sound a bit more Dickensian than edgy, but I guess if you need stretch mark cream you may not care about being edgy. In fact, the other connotation the mark brought to mind after I said it out loud obsessively for a few minutes was “a pachyderm” – which, I guess, would work just fine!
Anyway, this first haul provided just what I was looking for from a trademark perspective, and now the Levy women can share the bounty as our reward. Stay tuned for next month’s haul!

Saving space

I am sure I bought this lovely Airwick candle because it was on sale. It’s winter, and I’m cooking a lot, and I like to give the house a fighting chance not to smell like a soup kitchen. But I managed to get a chuckle out of this packaging:

That’s right, the LIMITED ÉDITION LIMITÉE! Someone finally figured out that Americans can read the word “ÉDITION” as “edition” even with an accent mark over the E! But there’s more – les Canadiens français can actually grasp the meaning of ÉDITION LIMITÉE even with that superfluous “LIMITED” preceding it! 

I’m guessing this was an inspired solution to the issue of limited packaging real estate, and I applaud it. Work with those cognates in both French and Spanish!

Meanwhile, on a much less trivial note, warm wishes to you all for a happy and healthy 2012, and thank you for keeping up with my meanderings, trivial and otherwise!

Drinking with my ladybrain, part 3

My toy poodle hasn’t been featured recently in these pixels (hey, I can’t really say “in these pages,” now, can I?) but she’s always either on my mind or at my feet. I recently let my daughters take a stab assisting me with Ladybrain shopping at Incredible Wine & Spirits, one of our wine shopping mainstays. In loving tribute to our Reggie, they quickly zeroed in on this one:

While in most circumstances I’ll say “French? Poodle? Wine? What could be bad?” I’ll make an exception here, and say merely that if “I love the label” is your main criterion for purchase (and you love poodles too), this may be your wine. If you like good wine, however, this may not be your wine. It has less acid than I expect to see in a California Sauvignon Blanc, and its fruit fades quickly. I’ve drunk worse, though, and could see this being serviceable on a hot summer afternoon.

However, the back label gives me serious concern. A poem, “by” the wine’s apparent mascot, Sark, (Sark?), contains this stanza:

Get Petted, Sleep Alot.

Did the wavy or dotted lines under “alot” in your word processing program not tip you off? My dog, thank you very much, can spell. In English and French, bien sur.

Drinking with my ladybrain, part deux

I tried. Really, I gave them more than the benefit of the doubt (and my Riedel stemless-ware). But these two wines just left me disappointed.

Lulu B pinot noir: cute, French – from Corsica. How could it be bad – we drank Corsican wines this summer and loved them. Middle Sister Rebel Red, a California zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah blend? Well, I have a middle sister, and I just love her. Both of these wines weigh in at a friendly 12.5% ABV, so I wouldn’t fall face-down into my dinner, a fate that can befall me with hefty, port-like California syrahs and zinfandels.  

But it was not to be. Lulu B had a disjointed nose and tasted like stale cough syrup, while Middle Sister had a powdery, incense-like flavor and a sour, skunky nose, like a cabernet franc gone very wrong. Both were very light-bodied, and both seemed dead on the palate, as if a step in the winemaking process had been omitted. I gave them time, and even sought corroboration from my husband, who only affirmed my perceptions. 

Now, from the trademark perspective? I don’t know who got there first, but this looks to me like a good example of trade dress infringement. I just don’t know who’s infringing whom. I could easily make a case for assuming there’s a connection between the two brands, based on the similarity of the label designs. I might not win – don’t get me wrong, these things are subjective – but I could certainly argue likelihood of confusion and pass the red face test.

From a brand perspective, I think Middle Sister goes a bit overboard: they use not only the distinctive Middle Sister house brand, but also a “sassy” varietal descriptor; here, the Rebel Red for the red blend, Wicked White for the white blend, Smarty Pants for chardonnay, Surfer Chick for sauvignon blanc . . . it goes on throughout the line, only reinforcing the girly nature of these wines.  

Yes, it’s clear that these wines target female consumers. But how about more emphasis on the wine and less on cutesy nomenclature? These two just made me sad, despite their cheerful names and labels. As with Cupcake, maybe I picked the wrong varietal in the line, and if you check CellarTracker, you do occasionally find positive reviews of some of these wines, so if anyone out there has a suggestion for a good one in these lines, let me know. So far, though, the female-friendly labels and marketing seem to be obscuring mediocre product. 

But I shall soldier on, so stay tuned!

Happy Bloggiversary to Moi! (or, Destination: France)

It’s that time of year again, and it almost passed me by. I’ll blame jet lag – we just got back from two weeks in France, and boy are my arms tired. Yeah, that one never gets old.

So yes, there was blog fodder: I also never tire of the French talent for punny shop names (as I’ve already shown you). Condrieu, in the Northern Rhone, offered up this gem:

A courant d’air is an air current; courant also means “current,” so this is a clever name for a hair salon that’s not catering to the blue-haired set.

Condrieu also offered up a zippy wine-tasting machine in a much less cleverly-named shop called La Bouteillerie, but since the thermometer was showing body temperature and the shop was climatis

é, we chose wine-tasting over getting trendy haircuts.

Anyway, I cannot believe I’ve been doing this for four years. It is, as we say in France, dingue. I am lucky that the branding world keeps providing me with ample subjects for commentary.

A visit to World Market

Let me just tell you, by the time you get to the end of this post, you won’t believe I dared to introduce it with the topic of my kids’ taste in candy . . . In October of 2008, I took our daughters to Paris to spend a week there along with my parents. We had a great time and I found lots of blog fodder there. One of the highlights for the girls was the discovery of Kinder’s Happy Hippos candy at the Frankfurt airport. Since that trip, we’ve brought these delicious treats back from Nice, and have had friends returning from Europe stow them in their luggage. Until today, however, I’d thought they were unavailable in the US. Well, great news: my eldest was informed that Cost Plus World Market has the little critters in stock. Trying to retain my Best Mother in the World title intact for 2011, I raced off this morning a la recherche des bonbons hippopotames.

I found them right away, but found myself lingering among the international delicacies World Market carries. Should I buy Hobnobs, for the memories of breakfasting on Hobnobs and yogurt prepared by Chef Leslie’s husband in London, 20 years ago? Three types of spatzle looked enticing too. But wait – what do we have here?

That’s right, Mini Wini cocktail sausages. So mini, yet so . . . wini.  Yes indeed, just that hair’s-breadth shy of being totally smutty. I’ll stop now.

Then there was the borderline scatological:

Why would I want to eat anything meant to be suggestive of a bunny’s tail, knowing how close that tail is to where bunny poop exits? And having said that, shouldn’t there be a complementary “Bunny Poop” product, perhaps something like Raisinets? 

And then there was the kicker, the product that had me speechless. The product name that makes Onan look good.  

Let me once again stress the invaluable assistance of Urban Dictionary in your name selection and trademark process. (I’m not even linking to the definition; you can do it yourself if you must.) Moreover, years of reading Dan Savage’s Savage Love blog and column have given me equally invaluable knowledge of sexual terminology and slang – knowledge that helps me advise clients when their proposed mark just might have an unsavory double meaning. (See Gap and its “pegged boyfriend” jeans for a recent example.) 

The moral as always: When in doubt, look it up. Or ask me, and don’t ask why or how I know!

Why not just spell it “roo-ee”?

Help me out here:

It’s not a roux – that’s a flour and fat-based thickener for a sauce or soup.  If they mean rouille – a garlicky, peppery sauce for bouillabaisse – maybe they need to go back to the old Larousse Gastronomique for some spelling help.  (Rouille, by the way, means “rust,” hinting at the color of a good rouille.)

What I suspect, however, is that “roui” is merely an attempt to simplify the spelling to aid in the pronunciation of the word.  This dumbing-down has the unfortunate effect of ripping the term away from its roots and meaning.

Worst of all, however, is the extremely unappealing photo of the so-called roui atop a tomato round, then perched atop a slice of melba toast that’s far too large for the tomato round.  Hors d’oeuvre faux pas, to say the least!

I need a new category

Ridiculous and/or nonsensical misspellings, preferably French, just tickle my fancy.  I have no problems with English misspellings as well – don’t get me wrong.  If I had my druthers I’d wander the streets of Paris looking for cute but nonsensical or misspelled English phrasing on clothing or other items.  But life here must go on, so here for your consideration is a wonderful example of the genre straight from T.J. Maxx:

Sadly, there does not appear to be a verb “tamier” that translates into something nasty that would make this item a true find – i.e., it’s no Zizi or Lelo.  Still, the butchery of the intended French phrase (“Je t’aime”) is solid, so I’m pleased to welcome it to my new category, Spelling Gaffes.

Epic spelling fail

For chrissakes, if you’re not sure, check the spelling on the goddamn bottle:

Sorry, I just get a bit testy about this kind of thing.  Carry on.

Luscious, but lame

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

Oh dear, I don’t think you meant to say that . . .

As my faithful blog readers (Hi Dad!) know, I have a lot of foreign language study under my belt.  The French you’re no doubt aware of, but I also studied Spanish, German, Russian and Hebrew, not to mention the few words of Bahasa Indonesia I picked up when I spent two months there in 1984 working for a law firm that represented Bank Indonesia.  I consider my accumulated skills in those languages to be an asset for my clients: I have often steered clients away from marks that, while innocuous or nonsensical in English, are obscene or otherwise offensive in other languages.

These guys should’ve checked with me first:

Unless, of course, you consider Wiener or PeePee a good brand for a knife.

Destination: Norway (actually, Epcot at Disney World)

So this year’s fall break took us to Disney World.  With the opportunity to sample food and wine from around the world at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, I couldn’t object. It was indeed an excellent trip, with a few trademark-related items of note.

Having a few languages besides English under my belt can be a blessing and a curse, I sometimes find.  My mind twists the meaning of words, brands, and names among the languages in which I call myself a dilettante, until there’s a veritable cacophony going on inside my head.  So when we visited the Norway pavilion at Epcot (herring! herring!), I saw this candy bar and cacophony erupted:

I don’t speak Swedish (turns out the shop does not discriminate among Scandinavian companies and their products), but I do speak French, and in French, “daim” means “suede.”  So I’m thinking the name either sounds like “damn” or means “suede,” and I get so confused and then it’s time for our dinner reservation and I didn’t buy the daim thing and apparently, according to my food guru David Lebovitz, I’ve made a big mistake because this candy is just delicious.

Oh well, when Ikea opens here in a few years, I’ll have my chance again.  I’ll just be prepared for the cerebral onslaught the name triggers.