Destination: Maine, Memories, and My Theory of Inevitable Marks

Into each life some rain must fall; after 39 years of vacationing in Maine together, my parents’ long run ended when my father succumbed to complications of kidney failure in April. But the tradition must live on, and so I joined my mother for the annual pilgrimage to honor lobster, shopping, and really long walks on the beach, and a now 40-year tradition.

The lobster, shopping, and long walks on the beach were, as advertised, unparalleled. And it had been years since I’d savored the joys of New England ice cream; I will report that the Bay of Figs ice cream at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream was possibly the best I’ve ever tasted.

And then there were the Maine-centric trademarks, two to be precise, that reignited my interest in defining a theory of what I call “inevitable marks” – marks that are logical, inevitable plays on words based on a feature of the goods or services, or of their geographic origin. You could think of it as a subset of descriptive terms but I like to think of them more as inevitable – insofar as it’s an inevitability that someone will come up with this idea for a mark or business name.

For Exhibit A, I can think of nothing better than this:


(I kept the picture large because the dude really was out of central casting.)
Maine Squeeze for a juice bar? It’s a natural, right? I’m sure there’s a Maine Event for a hair salon too. (Okay, there is, but it’s in Florida, so that makes no sense and opens a branding opportunity in Maine, right?)

And then this one:

I can’t deny that it’s clever – but it’s just never going to be protectable beyond the instantaneous recognition of that cleverness.  Why? It’s meat in Maine. But again, clever. As any name in Maine that uses the state’s two-letter ME abbreviation would be (ME Time for a spa, perhaps?) But that’s still going to be geographically descriptive, and lots of Mainers will want to use ME as a prefix, and should be able to.

Anyway, as you can see, I’m still formulating my inevitable marks theory, and was glad to have the opportunity to do so on a road trip with Mom where we could reminisce about Dad.

Change of venue

Apparently I’ve been blogging for over nine years now. So happy bloggiversary to me. Perhaps in celebration of those nine years, I’ve just made a big move from solo practice back to big firm practice. I joined the firm of Sherman & Howard L.L.C. on July 5 as Counsel. I’m delighted with this change of pace and lifestyle, and am very excited about the change. I’m also excited to discover downtown Denver, however belatedly after living here for nine years, to commute by train, and to relearn what dressing for work is all about.

BUT WHAT TRADEMARK ODDITIES HAVE I NEGLECTED TO SHARE SINCE MY LAST POST? I’m glad you asked. First of all, the INTA Annual Meeting in Barcelona was a thrill for many reasons, not the least of which was being introduced to fun brand Catalunyan names such as this:

And if Globber wasn’t enough, there’s this:

And one of the best window displays I’ve ever seen:

Yeah, some people think sewing machines. Others think about genericism, regardless of the language:


Finally, perhaps a bit too snarky for a bar name?


All in all, a grand time was had by all, it seemed, not to mention all the damn ham! Would return, 10/10! Meanwhile, until then, I’m enjoying my new digs and learning how to talk to people again – not just puppies!





Destination: Seattle

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!

Destination: Appleton, Wisconsin and the wilds of I-80

The second daughter has now been comfortably (if humidly) installed at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. It’s a lovely little school with an undergraduate conservatory, and we will be happy to see our daughter enjoy a music-filled liberal arts education there.

Of course, there were items of interest along the way; after the freshman convocation I spirited my husband away to the historic Stone Cellar Brewpub (no relation, alas), where I’d dined with Daughter #1 when touring Lawrence, to enjoy the food and drink that makes Wisconsin famous: beer and cheese curds.


They did not disappoint. We also learned that Stone Cellar is Wisconsin’s oldest brewery still in operation. Here’s an example of a bottling from when it was the George Walter Brewing Co., circa 1918:


But the time came for us to bid our daughter farewell, and after a stop to visit cousins in Illinois (the best kind of cousins – ones who own a spectacular bed & breakfast with superb food [and yes that was a shameless plug]), we were left with a long and boring drive back to Denver on I-80.

What, then, besides listening to Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friends, kept us awake and motivated? Great barbecue in Des Moines, and wondering what could’ve possessed anyone to come up with this name for a fast food joint that we saw throughout Nebraska:


Because all I can think of is someone saying in a crappy Italian accent, “don’t eat there, it gives you da runzas.” (Also, trademark pro tip: you don’t need to use the ® symbol every single time the mark appears on your website, particularly when you’re referring to the company rather than the stores and services they provide.)

Anyway, thanks to our younger daughter for following in her big sister’s footsteps by choosing a school outside of our customary geographic comfort range and thus allowing us to see more of the USA than we ever expected to!



Destination: Paris, stairwell edition

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


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 …


Destination: Scandinavia. Part 1, Scatology

know, right? Not Paris, not Sicily. The Levys are branching out! We took advantage of Volvo’s spectacular overseas delivery program to visit Denmark and Sweden, and we were not disappointed. (Except by the rain and cold. If I never see a certain v-necked gray sweater of mine again, it’ll be too soon.) Great food, scenery, museums, and people. The language, not so much; devoted readers know what a language whiz kid I think I am, but Swedish and Danish? Just impenetrable.

Still, there was entertaining/scatological branding galore. First on the list? This charming hat shop in Copenhagen:


Is that just like a small fart? I can’t even begin to guess, because the language, as I said, is impenetrable.

Next, also in Copenhagen, we have an impenetrable carshare slogan:

Smart i en fart

But funny, of course, because I’m twelve.

Next stop, a 7-11 at a gas station on the highway in Sweden, where we drove our new Volvo to visit my husband’s college roommate. (Think “Welcome to Sweden” but in reverse. Sort of.) And though we really had to get back on the road, I honestly could’ve spent all day savoring product names … like this one:


And this men’s shop was closed when we walked by, thus suggesting it didn’t live up to its name:


That’s the entertaining start to our Scandinavian odyssey; more to come!

Edited to add that Funny Or Die has already made the Fart Car a reality. (H/t my friend Leslie at Blythe’s Blog!)


Destination: Aspen, and beyond

Here’s the last ad of note from Aspen Magazine:

sentient jet

Don’t get me wrong – I love the word “sentient.” (And would love the idea of private jet service, but alas, will have to resign myself to the crumbs offered by my United Premier Silver status this year.)

But do we really think that “sentient” is the easiest word to pronounce? You, my literate readers, and I, and Wordnik, all know how it’s pronounced, but the full name just doesn’t roll off the tongue all that easily – the “shint” second syllable gets jammed with the “j” of “jet,” in my humble and fussy opinion. So while I loved the Sentient Jet mark at first sight, I liked it less at first recite. [I would insert a frowning emoji here if I knew how and were cooler. But I’m not.]



Destination: Paris

Yes, again. I needed a week of intensive walking, eating, and bus riding. Nothing suits me better. And of course there are the airport magazines and photos to share with my vast readership.

So if I haven’t mentioned the fact before, I am the daughter of a car fanatic and am also married to a car fanatic. The total number of cars my dad and husband have owned over their collective lives probably approaches 100. Naturally, some of this rubs off on me, and I’m no slouch when it comes to model recognition, for example, and of course, car names.

What a thrill then, to see that this model name has been given a new lease on life:


Yes, it’s the Duster, once a fine Plymouth model and now part of the Renault-Dacia family. Too bad they ditched the zany original Duster typeface:



Fun facts: I learned from the Wikipedia article on the Duster that it was built on the same platform as the Plymouth Valiant and the Dodge Dart. Re the former, we owned a snazzy white Valiant convertible with turquoise vinyl interior – boy was it cute! And re the latter? Well, like the Duster, the Dart name was resuscitated by Chrysler as of 2013, long after its original 1960-1976 heyday.

Destination: Germany and Lufthansa

Although our return flight from Frankfurt to Denver was unbearably crowded (how the 6’6″+ gentleman in front of us survived the legroom that crushed my 5′ frame I’ll never know), Lufthansa generally does a good job of feeding and watering its economy class passengers. And on its short hops, such as the one-hour flight from Munich to Frankfurt, you occasionally are treated to local goodies. German treats’ names can be quite entertaining – do you remember Fred Ferkel? Now meet Corny:


Which name, of course, takes me, as it would, straight to Arrested Development. As usual, those who understand, will understand.

Tire maintenance blogging

Twice a year, off I go to Discount Tire – snow tires on, snow tires off. Yesterday was on, and because there was a problem with the TPMS system (wait, don’t fall asleep yet!), I spent the better part of two hours there.

I’m not knocking their service – they do a great job, and once you’re just exchanging your snows and regular tires, they charge the ultimate price: Nothing. However, the magazine selection leaves a lot to be desired. No news magazines to speak of, and the choice is starkly delineated along 60s gender stereotypes: You men get your Field & Stream, and we of the daintier sex get our Better Homes & Gardens. And there’s only so far I’ll go to bust the stereotypes, so BH&G it was.

So first this ad caught my eye:

Is it Face Everyone for Every Day? Everyone Face for Every Day? Face For Every Day Everyone? Feveryone Face for Every Day? I couldn’t even find the photo once I’d named it because the name confused me so much.

Then there’s this one, thanks to Big Pharma:

Zell-janz? Ex-el-janz? Or is the last syllable pronounced German-style, “yahntz”? It makes “tofacitinib” seem like child’s play.

Anyway, bring on the snow, because I’m ready!

It’s Local!

A great trademark for a new business I found out about while leafing through this month’s 5280 Magazine (great name itself, no?):

That’s Shatter Buggy, if you can’t see my bad photo clearly. What’s their business? I’m so glad you asked, because if you can’t tell from the business’s name, they’ve selected a good mark, in my book. Shatter Buggy fixes your iPad, iPod, or iPhone when you’ve dropped it and cracked the glass – pretty much something I live in fear of doing now that I own two of those three devices. So: great idea, great name. 

Destination: Sicily in the1950s

Here’s my friend Sally’s grandfather’s Fiat refrigerator, an extension of the Fiat brand I wasn’t aware of before:

Plus it’s just gorgeous! I poked around the web to see if I could locate any more information on Fiat’s refrigerator business, but came up empty-handed. Anyone?
Meanwhile, here’s the Fiat we were privileged to drive in Sicily, pictured outside Le Cinque Vie, where we enjoyed an amazing dinner and warm welcome from Teresa and Sergio:
Not quite as swanky as the new Fiat Cinquecento, seen here at the Irvine Spectrum last month:
But it got us where we needed to be, and what a pleasure to park!

Destination: Vienna

L’dor va dor, as we say in Hebrew – from generation to generation. A moving concept, as we sent our eldest off to Vienna and Prague with her choir to see the world and spread the gift of song.

Yes, it is rewarding to see her grow and mature … and spot the same kind of language/translation bloopers that I love, to wit:
Happy 16th to my darling daughter who is fast becoming a chip off the old blocks!

Destination: Munich

What I didn’t divulge previously was that we reached France via Munich in a little zippy vehicle that within 30 minutes of exiting the BMW Welt, was motoring along at speeds that occasionally reached 110 mph. Don’t look at me, I wasn’t driving. (BTW, the BMW European Delivery program and the car’s presentation to its new owners, along with a visit to the Welt and factory and museum, constitute one of the finest examples of how to sow brand loyalty I’ve ever experienced.)

But before our visit to the Welt, we spent a night in Munich and had dinner with old friends. As we were on our way to dinner, we encountered this example of how some brand names just don’t translate:

Back in the hotel room, we witnessed an even more compelling example of not only how brands may not always translate, but how their marketing as well can perplex and even sometimes horrify:

Words failed me when I first found this in the minibar and fail me still.

Spelling counts

Perhaps I haven’t yet mentioned this yet on the blog, but long ago and far away, I was a spelling champ.  While I doubt I could win one today, given the kind of words contestants have faced lately (stromuhr?  Really?), I’m still intolerant of poor and lazy spelling – which intolerance has carried on, I’m proud to say, to my children, who have learned that if they want to continue using Facebook they must be “friends” with me, and thus may not litter their Facebook discourse with lazy shorthand spellings.  

Which leads me to the copy of Town & Country I was perusing at my surgeon’s office today: Besides the usual array of jewelry ads (did you know that the latest is slices of precious stones?  Neither did I), Social Register galas and furniture for palaces, I encountered an article on perfumes from which I snapped this photo:

Okay, first there’s Absinth.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why the normally-spelled word “absinthe” had to be truncated to create this perfume name.  When I go to Google, of course it says “Did you mean: absinthe“? Well, of course – because that’s the correct spelling.  I just wish I could get inside the minds of the geniuses who came up with it, or at least have a recording of the brainstorming session and the eureka moment.  I can imagine it went something like “Well, absinthe has such a mystique about it but there is that illegal drug aspect . . . so if we take off the ‘e’ maybe that won’t come through so strongly?”  No, I didn’t think so either.

Look, the bottom line is that I don’t like meaningless misspellings.  I just drove home behind a Kia Sorento this afternoon, and that bastardization baffles me every time I see it. Kia kept the spelling of Sedona normal – why couldn’t they leave well enough alone with Sorrento?

Finally, I simply have to say something about Essence of IX.  And as usual, there’s a buildup: My mother didn’t learn Roman numerals.  Many of my Sundays growing up were spent providing my mother with the answers to Roman numeral clues for the New York Times crossword puzzle.  But my kids haven’t learned Roman numerals either.  Maybe I just had the luck to live through the Golden Age of Roman numerals in the late 60s and early 70s.  

But I know my mom and my kids aren’t alone: On a train ride in Paris several years ago, we heard an American woman talking about getting back to the Hotel George V – only she pronounced it “George Vee.”  We only barely maintained our composure.  So I am concerned when I see a product called “Essence of IX” – because I am just not sure that the purchasing public these days is educated in Roman numerals sufficient to ask for Essence of Nine rather than Essence of Icks.  

Planning Fall Break

Fall break is fast upon us, so the logistics of our upcoming trip to Paris with the grandparents (yes, we are extremely lucky) are occupying my time.  I was trying to figure out how best to get us from the airport to our apartment, and this slogan caught my fancy:

Translation: “The whole world is our guest.”  Génial!

Turns out my favorite museum, the Jacquemart-André (love the café), has a “buy three, get one kid’s admission free” plan.  That will work!

Stay tuned . . .

Olympics Brandwatch

Watching the women’s bike racing right now, as the peloton slogs through the rain and pollution.  Give me the Tour de France any day for scenery, but one thing that caught my eye was the bicycle brand Cervelo. What a great name: it combines the French words for brain and bicycle, and is not appallingly unpronounceable in English.  Bravo!

Marketing 1, trademark lawyers 0

Introducing JetBlue’s new slogan: Happy Jetting!  With website sections titled “Are you a flyer or a jetter?” “The Rise of Jetting,” and statements like “JetBlue brings humanity back to the skies with a new form of aviation called ‘jetting,'” “Explore the many ways of jetting,” and a triumphant phallic-appearing announcement that “Today Jetting Rocks,” JetBlue is clearly trying to generate enthusiasm in a hungry, thirsty, crowded, tired, smelly and overcharged flying public. 

From a trademark perspective?  Not so much.  In fact, they’ve pretty much violated every rule in the Jessica Stone Levy book of trademark selection.  JetBlue has: (a) taken a colloquial term used in the English language by consumers of the services; (b) defined their view of “jetting” exhaustively in marketing materials;  and (c) used other formatives of the word (e.g., jetter).  If,  for example, a competitor were to use a slogan like “I jet around,” or “Jetting off to Cabo was never easier,” and JetBlue sued, I’d say those three actions above would be Exhibit A in that competitor’s defense.

This campaign reeks of the trademark-antithetical “branding initiative,” launched by marketers with little concern for the practical aspects of securing trademark registration and more importantly, of acquiring and enforcing trademark rights.  Paradoxically, after reviewing Jet Blue’s full website, I think the campaign is actually quite clever and entertaining, and if Jet Blue can be the rising tide to lift planes (?) in this horrible market, more power to them.  Just don’t think that you can then turn around and be a trademark bully with the trademark rights equivalent of a pair of batacas.