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  • Posted by: Jerome McDonnell and Nicole Briggs on Wednesday, January 9 2013 09:13 AM | Comments (0)

    Nothing makes us happier than when trademarks make the headlines, and 2012 did not disappoint. While intellectual property is a serious subject, here we present some of the more sensational trademark news items from the past year.

    Beyonce and Jay-Z

    Blue Ivy Carter: My kid is a celebrity!

    Just a few days after baby Blue Ivy Carter was born in January, celebrity parents Jay-Z and Beyoncé were tossed a curve ball when Joseph Mbeh filed a trademark application for “Blue Ivy Carter NYC.” The USPTO denied the application due to likelihood of confusion and false connection. On November 27, 2012, the famous couple’s own trademark application for Blue Ivy Carter was published in the official Trademark Gazette. If all goes well, the couple will own rights to their daughter’s name. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West should take note.

    Linsanity: Whose name is it anyway?

    Early in 2012 Jeremy Lin had the world in a frenzy over his savvy basketball moves. At the USPTO there was also a frenzy over the rights to "Linsanity." With a pending application, Jeremy Lin will most likely gain exclusive rights to the trademark — but, on Feb 9, one Andrew Slayton filed for the name 4 days before Lin. Since then the USPTO has sent a suspension letter sent to Andrew citing false connection with Jeremy Lin. We’ll stayed tuned for the outcome. Meanwhile, more than 200 different trademark applications were filed for “Linsanity” in North America, China, Taiwan, and the UK…

    Eat Mor Kale: Little dog takes on the big dog!

    Chick-fil-A, owner of the tagline “Eat Mor Chikin,” sent a cease and desist letter to t-shirt artist Bo Muller-Moore over his use of “Eat More Kale.” The company is known for going after pretty much anyone using the words “Eat More” in a trademark. Muller-Moore stated he was willing to fight it out — but in May, the USPTO sided with Chick-fil-A and refused to grant him a trademark registration, due to likelihood of confusion with Chick-fil-A’s mark. Do you think it is fair for Chick-fil-A to claim exclusive rights to “Eat Mor(e)”?

    Hershey Bar Configuration: The Non-Traditional trademark

    In June, Hershey Chocolate and Confectionary Corporation won an appeal at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to register its configuration of a candy bar (“…that consists of twelve (12) equally-sized recessed rectangular panels arranged in a four panel by three panel format with each panel having its own raised border within a large rectangle”). Used in commerce since 1968, the appeal was won after the board decided that the configuration had acquired distinctiveness through continuous use. Some wonder if Hershey will have a hard time enforcing these rights against competitors. Nevertheless, Hershey has reminded us of the power of trade dress. Shape is everything, in this case.

    The Biggest Brand Protection Operation Ever Staged

    Some might say that brands overshadowed athletes at the London Olympic Games, and protecting the rights of sponsor brands was priority. While spectators were essentially told what not to wear (large groups of spectators wearing "visibly branded" clothing risked being banned, athletes were not allowed to sell merchandise with their names on it, or be featured in any advertising unless for a brand that was a sponsor. More than 280 “enforcement officers” from the Olympic Delivery Authority were on the lookout for ambush marketing activity. New legislation granted these officers even greater powers than the police, with the authority to enter premises without a warrant. Olympic strength enforcement, indeed.

    Nicest Cease-And-Desist Letter Ever!

    In July, the trademark folks at Jack Daniels got some nice PR when the recipient of this letter posted it online — and the story went viral. While it was later pointed out that, technically, it was not a Cease-and-Desist letter, the world is a better place for learning that lawyers can behave reasonably. As the saying goes, sometimes you catch more flies with honey…

    Any Color, As Long As It’s Red

    Christian Louboutin's red soleIn September, the decision confirming the validity of the Red Sole trademark held by Christian Louboutin ensured the designer could continue to protect the mark when it comes to red-soled shoes with contrasting uppers — while also allowing YSL the right to continue selling a monochrome red shoe. Everyone was a winner, and fashionistas and IP professionals came together to rejoice!

    What is it with Apple and Trademarks?

    Forget about Apple’s tussle with Proview over rights to the iPAD trademark in China — what we want to know is why the iPhone trademark hasn’t long been squared away? Five years after the product launched, Apple was still having to deal with a company in Brazil that filed for Gradiente iPhone in 2000, while in Mexico it will face off against a telecommunications company by the name of iFone that registered its mark in 2003.

    Village Voice: “Best Of” is ours!

    Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC claims exclusive rights to the phrase “Best Of.” With more than 20 active trademark applications containing the phrase “Best Of…” they may have a strong argument. In October, VVMH slapped YELP with a lawsuit over the unauthorized use of the term, claiming trademark infringement and unfair competition. This is not a first time battle for Village Voice, they have challenged many others over use of the phrase that they have dominated. Such behavior has earned them the label of “trademark troll,” but some might call it proper enforcement of trademark rights.

    NC-17 Trademark?

    Applicant filed for the mark C*** Sucker for rooster-shaped lollipops, and the Examining Attorney deemed it scandalous and immoral. Applicant went on to argue that, because applicant’s mark comprised two separate words, the dictionary definition should not apply (…); further, that attitudes have become “more and more” liberal. But in December (11 years after the application was filed), the CAFC affirmed the mark as scandalous and denied registration. Though it is worth noting that, while trademark rights were denied, use was not banned…

    Jerome McDonnell is Group Trademark Director and Nicole Briggs is an Associate Trademark Consultant for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Calin Hertioga on Wednesday, September 5 2012 05:17 PM | Comments (0)


    Photo by Interbrand's Alex Leopold

    The Paralympics are underway, as is the medal count. As it stood end of Day 6, China had accumulated the most medals, followed, in order, by Great Britain, Russia, Australia, Ukraine, USA, Germany, France, Spain and Brazil. China had won 53 gold medals, 30 more than Great Britain and 39 more than the USA. But as Channel 4's Superhumans campaign highlights, every Paralympian is a superhuman athlete. Reflecting on London 2012's medal count, one might ask, "Did one nation emerge the winner?"

    Tribes and then nations have always been competing for resources, economically and politically, since the beginning of human history. In more recent times, a new type of competition is emerging: the nation brands competition.

    While quantifying and ranking nation brands is a (daunting) topic becoming hot only in the last few years, the first internationally established "measurement standard" for nation brands has been around for more than 100 years - the Olympic Games medals ranking.

    Economic and then political competition among nations has largely followed the principle "more is better" - and this is the way the medal ranking is set up as well: Who wins the most medals? The IOC has introduced a "qualitative" element, ranking countries by gold medals above anything else. [in this exercise we'll use the "New York Times weighting principle"to get a country score of "bronze equivalents": 1 point for bronze, 2 (double) for silver, 4 (double) for gold].

    The USA is leading all "quantitative" rankings of the London 2012 Olympics, by total medals (104), gold medals (46) and total points (271=46x4+29x2+29x1). But did the United States really "win" the Olympics?

    From a "quantitative" perspective, yes – and here's how the top 10 ranking by "bronze equivalents" looks like:

    Medal Count

    But have these countries really "won" the Olympics in terms of "quality" as well? Have they made the most effective use of their resources?

    Each country starts from a different "potential" in terms of two key resources needed for medal performance: people and money. Let's see how well countries have used their initial starting potential for winning medals.

    Let's therefore compare the share of medals (bronze equivalent points) won with the share of world population and world GDP. (sources: United Nations and CIA Factbook, via Wikipedia)


    The ~300 Million US citizens represent around 4% of the world population – less than the 12% share of bronze equivalents, which means they have achieved 268% of their potential (12%/4%=268%) – well done!

    But have others done better? The top 10 ranking of (over)achieving population looks like this:


    Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean, grabbed the first spot due to its very small population (110,000 inhabitants) coupled with the one gold medal won by the sprinter Kirani James – even this medal, however, way exceeding its theoretical potential.

    Even if we consider Grenada and Bahamas as outliers (although we know from Malcolm Gladwell that there are no outliers), it is obvious that countries with a small population can more easily surpass their potential. Of these, the more deserving ones should be the ones who do so benefiting from less financial power than others – which brings us to the next criterion.


    The USA accounts for 20% of the world's GDP – with only 12% of medal points share, they have underachieved their potential. The top 10 from this perspective looks as follows:

    This ranking gives an advantage to countries with a very low GDP among the ones with a good medal exploit – Kenya, North Korea, Cuba.

    And now to the finale: Averaging the population and the GDP scores out gives us the combined ranking of the most effective nations – most over-achieving the combination of their population and financial potential:


    Beyond Grenada and Bahamas, Jamaica and New Zealand are the stars: they have won 12 respectively 13 medals, for a population of 2 respectively 4 Million inhabitants.

    Their success stories came on different paths: Jamaica obtained all medals in one single sport (athletics), while New Zealand medalists spread over 7 disciplines (athletics, cycling bmx, canoe sprint, cycling track, equestrian, rowing and sailing).

    If we look down the list, we see similar patterns – while Georgia and Mongolia got their medals in a small number of disciplines they excel at (wrestling and judo), Hungary won their impressive 17 medals in 8 disciplines (athletics, canoe sprint, fencing, gymnastics, judo, modern pentathlon, swimming, wrestling).

    So – who won the Olympic Games? The USA? Grenada? Jamaica? New Zealand?

    It's the Olympics. Everybody won. Medals aren't the only things that count.

    Calin Hertioga is a Senior Consultant at Interbrand Zurich.

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  • Posted by: Karla Aspiras on Thursday, August 30 2012 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

     Paralympics Logo in London

    The London Paralympics just started and it is expected to be a sold out crowd.

    Any triumph at this sporting event is a triumph of the human spirit. The Paralympic athletes are not only competing for medals, but act as agents of social change. In the same vein as the Olympic athletes mentioned, which athletes do you think should capitalize on their name?

    While we are still reeling from Olympic hangover, athletes and teams are cashing in on their newly gained popularity.

    United States’ Ryan Lochte, 11-time Olympic medalist for swimming, wants to trademark his catchphrase “Jeah” for apparel and accessories, and filed for it last August 1, but is encountering some problems. Rapper MC Eiht claims that he “coined” the phrase in 1988 and feels slighted that he did not get recognition from Lochte as the originator. In addition, a company in Wisconsin has locally registered “Jeah Communications” in WI state and they have reportedly reached out to Lochte with a cease and desist.

    The United States’ women’s gymnastics team seeks to register “Fierce Five” and filed last August 17, but someone else filed for the same mark six days prior and interestingly, the filer Paolo Mazza, is the same individual who filed for “Lin-sational” months back, in reference to then New York Knicks’ point guard Jeremy Lin.

    The gymnasts are not out of luck. In the US ownership is granted to the individual or entity who shows prior use of the mark in commerce, and not necessarily the first to file for the mark, so Mr. Mazza does not automatically get a registration on the mere basis of his timeliness in filing.

    However, few weeks before the group of five American female gymnasts were known as the “fierce five,” journalists were referring to them as the “fab five.” That name is owned by Jalen Rose, retired NBA athlete and currently an ESPN analyst. Rose thought that the media had it wrong, and should have thought of a more “creative tag” for the gymnasts. Rose and four other basketball players from University of Michigan were dubbed as the “fab five” back in 1991 when they were all recruited to play professional basketball for the NBA. The media eventually appeased Mr. Rose and hence the gymnasts are now referred to as the fierce five.

    The practice of filing for an athlete’s identity or persona is not uncommon. A good number of athletes, Olympics or not, dabbled in business to bank on their popularity (or anticipation thereof).

    Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt already owns “Bolt to the World” and “Usain Bolt.” Retired basketball player Shaquille O’ Neal owns “Shaq Attaq” and “Dunkman.” New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter owns “Turn 2.” Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin filed for his catchphrase “unbelievably believable.” Number one overall NBA draft pick for 2012, Anthony Davis, filed for “Fear the Brow” and “Raise the Brow” in reference to his unibrow. Austin Rivers, the 10th draft pick, has filed for the words tattooed on his left wrist, “Man on a Mission.”

    Which athletes do you think should file for their trademarks?

    Karla Aspiras is a Trademark Analyst at Interbrand NY.

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  • Posted by: Lorna Fray on Thursday, August 16 2012 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

    Olympics Themed Happy Meals 

    Loving it

    So the fastest man on earth ate a McDonald’s wrap before winning the men’s 100 metre final in London, as well as in Beijing. This wouldn’t impress Michelle Obama, who teased Gabby Douglas for setting back the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative by eating in McDonald’s after her Olympic victory.

    Mrs. Obama has her work cut out in persuading us all to ditch fast food. McDonald's has announced that sales in its four Olympic Park outlets exceeded expectations by more than 50% during the Olympics. By the end of the Paralympic Games, which is set to begin on August 29 and close on September 9, the chain expects to serve more than 1.75 million meals in these branches.

    One of these branches is the world’s largest, and busiest, fast food restaurant. The 3,000 sq ft restaurant has 20 tills and serves up to 1,200 customers an hour, making it more than ten times busier than an average McDonald's. While there's some downtime between the close of the Olympic Games and opening of the Paralympics, during its six week run, this location is poised to sell a fair number of British staple chips (fries).


    McDonald's London 2012 

    The world’s biggest fast food outlet

    Before the Olympics, McDonald’s stated its intention to give visitors “the best possible customer experience in a great environment.” Is this possible in such a huge restaurant?

    At lunchtime on its first day of trading, McDonald’s was doing what it does best – serving people quickly and courteously – but on a much bigger scale. At 12:45, customer queues stretched across the considerable floorspace – people were queuing for 15–20 minutes before placing their food order. By 1pm, the queues had doubled in length, stretching out the door. At the same time, nearby food stalls had no queues, or negligible ones.

    Among the predominant family demographic, the appeal of McDonald’s was in its familiarity and treats. As had been widely publicized, McDonald’s was the only outlet in the park selling chips. Others came out of curiosity – there is a definite sense of occasion in visiting the world’s largest fast food restaurant, particularly as it is a temporary building. Despite the queues and rising temperatures in the building, the mood was very jovial, with people taking pictures and chatting animatedly.

    The View from McDonald's 

    Brand ambassadors

    Anyone coming near the restaurant is greeted by smiling, friendly staff who are having the time of their lives. One of these is Bernard, from Scunthorpe in the East Midlands, who enthused, “I absolutely love it; I'm thrilled to be here and am having the best time.” Aside from the atmosphere in the park, down-to-earth Bernard was enjoying staying in a “very posh” central London hotel.

    All 1,800 restaurant staff at the Olympics have been handpicked for the event, based on customer recommendations and managers' feedback. This is a clever way to acknowledge and reward their best employees, while ensuring that customers receive the best service.

    McDonald’s is also clever in its situation and its offer. The largest branch is right next to the Olympic Stadium, London 2012 Megastore and the main park restrooms – all magnets for visitors. It has an upstairs terrace with the best views of the Olympic Park, apart from the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, which charges a hefty entrance fee. And the extensive outdoor patio seating is well-placed for diners to make the most of the atmosphere in the park, whatever the weather.

    McDonald's Terrace

    Green restaurant for the green games

    In some ways this branch doesn’t feel like a McDonald’s – it is airy, largely wooden with natural lighting, and surrounded by banks of wildflowers. Frequent diners may quibble at the slimmed down menu on offer – with no coffee or apple pies and fewer choices in each food category. But newcomers may be swayed by the restaurant’s environmental contribution to “the greenest Games ever.” The restaurant is McDonald’s first sustainable outlet, with most of the building materials due for reuse or recycling after the Paralympic Games.

    Eating fast food in a centre of sporting excellence is a contradiction that has attracted much criticism in the press, and standing in long queues to eat fried food perhaps compounds this. But eating convenience food at sporting events is not a new phenomenon, or one that is likely to go away anytime soon. And McDonald’s is taking steps to “Inspire a generation” to be active – all Happy Meals toys at the park are Olympic mascots styled as athletes, and come with vouchers for free trial sessions in athletics, badminton, canoeing, gymnastics, football, swimming or martial arts. "Let's Move!" fans would, perhaps, approve.

    Green McDonald's 

    Lorna Fray is a writer and editor for Interbrand.




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  • Posted by: Lorna Fray on Friday, August 10 2012 09:30 AM | Comments (0)

    Olympic Park

    On day one of the London 2012 Olympics, I spent a family day in the Olympic Park, watching a basketball match and generally soaking up the atmosphere. The atmosphere was amazing, the park stunning and the sport entertaining, if predictable (China won). But what fascinated me was the branding.

    Visual branding – London 2012 wins gold

    Olympic Volunteers
    On the tube that morning, almost half of our fellow passengers were Olympic volunteers in their distinctive Adidas and London 2012 branded uniforms. This set the tone for the day’s spectacles – London 2012 and its distinctive colourways were the most visually prominent brand. Looking more closely, the lanyards worn by all staff, volunteers and accredited visitors featured the Atos logo – giving the company a low-key but ubiquitous presence at the games.

    Contrary to speculation, there was no policing of spectators’ clothing and accessories – security didn’t bat an eyelid at Nike trainers, rucksacks or caps. But London 2012 and team GB eclipsed all other sports brands – around a fifth of those entering the park were already sporting at least one commemorative item. By the time they left, a good half of all spectators had new Olympic merchandise (apparentlyTshirts, keyrings and pin badges were the best sellers, though BMW humourously offered a Mini for sale in the London 2012 Megastore).

    Approaching the main park gate at Stratford, the Olympic stadium was dwarfed by Gillette ads down the side of three neighbouring tower blocks, featuring British cycling star Chris Hoy. It’s interesting that official games partner P&G chose this spot to showcase a product brand, rather than its corporate ‘Proud sponsor of mums’ campaign (though the parent brand also has a salon in the Athletes’ Village).

    Inside the park, the lack of visual branding was striking (with the notable exception of McDonald’s huge golden arches and Coca-Cola’s ubiquitous drinks stalls, table umbrellas and branded bins). Seeing generic, unbranded coffee and food stalls and no sponsor branding inside Olympic venues was rather alien to those of us used to London’s visual riot. And it was rather comical to see that the manufacturer’s logo on hand dryers in the toilets had been covered with plain white stickers – one branding ‘urban myth’ that turned out to be true after all.

    Interactive experiences – a mixed bag
    Instead, most official sponsors practised what Interbrand preaches – they delivered interactive brand experiences. Eight Olympic partners (Acer, Coca-Cola, The BMW Group, BP, EDF, Panasonic, Samsung and the National Lottery) have pavilions in the park, offering various types of interactive experiences, from Coca-Cola’s Beatbox musical sculpture that can be ‘played’ by visitors to Acer’s multimedia and gaming zone.

    coca cola at the olympics

    From a consumer’s point of view, these pavilions had various degrees of success. For a start, nobody could get around all this in one day – and many just opted to enjoy the rare British sunshine and watch as much sport as possible. Secondly, several pavilions didn’t appear to welcome the public – resembling VIP hospitality areas rather than inviting interaction. And there were a few frustrations – EDF’s The Magic of Electricity missed a trick by requiring explanations from staff (visitors had to download an app to photograph themselves alongside Olympic athletes before entering the main pavilion – the sight of visitors frowning at their progress bars was enough to put others off even trying).

    As we were there on a family day out, we made normal family choices. The Coca-Cola interactive Beatbox sculpture, building on the brand’s ‘Move to the beat’ campaign, looks brilliant but we missed it. The BMW and Acer pavilions sounded too focused on their own company history, despite having interactive elements. And BP’s focus on clean energy seemed to fall a little flat – despite mailing carbon offset QR codes with all Olympic tickets, only around 400,000 journeys had been offset online by day 10 of the games.

    The best of these brand experiences were perhaps the simplest, requiring no explanations, queues or specific apps and focusing on the consumer rather than the parent company. For example, the BP pavilion worked even for those who didn’t enter it, as its huge mirrored side served as an interesting (and branded) backdrop for snapshots and larking about.

    In a similar way, BA’s ‘Park Live’ – grassy areas featuring a huge screen broadcasting live action from Olympic venues – blended well with the mood and occasion, tapping in to people’s interest in sport without any mention of air travel. The airline was also canny in giving away free union jack seating mats and temporary tattoos to families and young children. Panasonic’s experience also suited the occasion and the dominant family demographic in the park, by teaching kids how to perform various sports as well as supporting the Park Live screens.

    Clearly McDonald’s pitched its experience at families too. This will be the subject of a separate post, but it is worth noting that aswell as offering familiar food (we all know how fussy children can be aboutunfamiliar dishes), its huge restaurant offered the best value views across the park. The brand’s wider interactive Olympic experience, under the tagline ‘We all make the game’, involves using spectators’ own pictures in its lcd screen poster campaign around London transport hubs – effectively tapping into the inclusive, party atmosphere around the city.

    It’s interesting that other family-oriented Olympic partners BT and Cadbury opted to focus their interactive brand experiences outside the main Olympic Park, at ‘London Live’ sites. Tens of thousands have been gathering to watch Olympic broadcasts and join in sports-based fun at thesefestival areas, for free. These have been the surprise hit of the games, winning over cynical Londoners as well as visitors.

    flow with visaFinal impressions
    Several Olympic partners – BMW, Coca-Cola and Visa – made a big effort to leave a lasting impression with Olympic spectators, via huge advertising on the wayfrom the park to key transport hubs. Certainly, there was little else to grasp consumers’ attention as they slowly filed on to tubes and buses. Coca-Cola’s artwork was suitably celebratory, but ‘Flow faster with Visa’ is perhaps a double-edged message for spectators in slow-moving, carefully controlled crowds. The ‘proud to accept only Visa’ Olympic notices have become a bit of a joke, which backfires when card payment machines break down and customers used to swift, secure and easy payments are forced to rely on old technology – cash.

    The main business story around the London Olympics has been the detrimental effect of the games on non-sponsors in the city. Certainly, on this Saturday afternoon the huge Westfield shopping mall next to the Olympic park was unusually quiet. The Nike store between the main park exit and the tube station was almost empty – surely the brand missed a trick there. Perhaps predictably, the only buzzing shop in the mall was the London 2012 gift shop.


    Lorna Fray is a writer and editor for Interbrand.

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