Trademarks are valuable to businesses. These registered brands and symbols do more than represent your company – they also protect your image and intellectual property. Registering a trademark guarantees your ownership of a business name, logo and product name, giving you an edge over your competitors.
We all know how advantageous trademarks are for business growth. But this 2020, several cases in particular have helped us understand how trademark laws can make or break a business.
Here’s a roundup of a few trademark-related challenges we saw this year and the lessons you can learn from them.
Wilful Infringement: How the Changing Intellectual Property Landscape Affects Trademarks
As outlined in an earlier article , wilful infringement happens when an individual or a business knowingly uses a trademark for commercial purposes. If caught, the offender can be sued for damages by the trademark owner.
Due to trademark legal battles across the world, the definition of wilful infringement has changed. Now, proof of wilfulness is no longer required when a third party infringes on a trademark owner’s rights for profit. This is because wilfulness is automatically presumed in cases of trademark dilution or cases where the infringer uses a famous trademark for profit. While not all terms are the same globally, the courts around the world usually take the same approach where trade mark infringement occurs.
This development makes it easier for trademark owners to enforce their ownership rights. It also dissuades other parties from using trademarked logos and names. As a business owner, you can use this change to strengthen the protection of your intellectual properties.
Passing Off: Never Use Celebrities’ Names for Your Business without Consent
Some entrepreneurs try to get creative with their business names or product names by using the names of famous movies or celebrities. This strategy is commonly used by small-time businesses to draw more attention to their products and services. However, following this technique can bring your business more harm than good.
Using celebrities’ names for commercial intent, without their consent, can be considered as passing off. Passing off applies when a public figure is falsely represented as being affiliated with a product, service or brand.
Many celebrities are highly litigious and would do whatever it takes to protect their image. There have been many cases where actors and actresses sued brands for using their names and photos for product marketing. So the rule is If you fail to get their consent, it’s better to not use their name or image for your business’ goods or services.
What the Booking.com Case Could Mean for Trademarking
It’s often difficult to trademark generic terms. These terms are used in day-to-day conversations, so they aren’t immediately associated with certain brands. This is why the case of booking.com is interesting.
The company applied to trademark the term ‘booking.com’, only to be rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The rejection resulted in a legal battle that reached the Supreme Court.
On June 30, booking.com finally won the highly disputed trademark case. This doesn’t mean you can easily trademark any generic word just by adding a ‘.com’ at the end. The term must have enough recognition from consumers to deserve a trademark, such as the case with booking.com. Often extensive use of a generic mark over a number of years can enhance the prospects of achieving registration.
Bentley Clothing Wins Trademark Dispute over Bentley Motors
Family-owned business Bentley Clothing and luxury carmaker Bentley Motors have been engaged in a trademark dispute since 1998. The altercation started when Bentley Motors began selling a limited collection of clothing bearing the B-in-wings logo.
During this period, Brandlogic (owner of Bentley Clothing) approached the carmaker about trademarking the word “Bentley.” The auto manufacturer then expanded its clothing range and started using “Bentley” along with the logo.
The clothing company won the decision in 2019 after a 20-year legal battle. The High Court held that Bentley Motors deliberately infringed on Bentley Clothing’s registered trademarks since they were informed beforehand about the trademark’s existence.
How Apple Aggressively Protects Its Trademarks
Apple is known for aggressively defending its trademarks. The tech titan has gone against multiple companies, both small and large, to make sure the uniqueness of their trademarks isn’t diluted by other businesses’ logos.
Apple has sued Prepear, a meal prep company, for using a minimalist fruit logo. The logo, according to Apple, can create confusion among consumers. The software giant argued that Prepear might be mistaken as a new Apple product because it seems like something the tech company would create. This dispute has yet to be settled.
Businesses can learn a thing or two from Apple and the lengths it goes to to protect its brand. Trademarks help strengthen the distinctiveness of logos and terms related to your company, which will aid brand awareness.
Secure a Trademark with Pinnacle TMS
If you haven’t yet, register your trademarks now. Doing so gives you exclusive legal rights to your intellectual properties, preventing theft by other businesses. Pinnacle TMS will help you with the registration process, as well as with other matters relating to trademarks. We provide expert advice and assistance to prevent competitors from unlawfully using your marks.
Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation.