Treat Each Brand Like a Trademark


Have you ever applied for a trademark? I have — to officially register my unique brand and protect it from copycats. That’s key to emerging from, and remaining above, the white noise.

I succeeded in getting my trademark, thanks to my lawyer’s skill in navigating the USPTO’s (United States Patent & Trademark Office) rigorous approval process, which takes about one year:

  1. Examination: USPTO lawyer reviews for: a) likely confusion with a registered mark, b) merely descriptive of product or service, c) primarily geographically descriptive, d) primarily geographically misdescriptive, e) merely generic, f) primarily a surname, or g) scandalous/immoral. Applicant has six months to respond to a refusal or abandon the process.
  2. Publication for Opposition: If step #1 is successful, USPTO lawyer publishes mark in Official Gazette — after which any party believing it may be damaged by mark’s registration has 30 days to oppose. In that rare event, trial determines validity of opposition (e.g., applicant’s mark is confusingly similar to opposer’s mark).
  3. Registration: If step #2 is successful, and mark is currently used in commerce, USPTO attorney registers it and issues a registration certificate.

As you can see, getting a trademark requires enduring a stringent labyrinth — jumping a huge hurdle. One never should attempt this feat cavalierly. The same rule applies to branding.
Lazy Dartboard Branding

In essence, I paid a nontrivial sum, collaborated with my lawyer to execute a deft application strategy, and waited one nail-biting year to acquire my circle-R protection — all for a three-word moniker.

It stands to reason — in light of the money, effort, and time invested — that I required my trademark to add significant value to my brand. No whimsy here. I traveled the path deliberately and purposely, with reason and calculation.

Imagine my incredulity, then, when on 15 June 2009, IBM’s homepage greeted me with this inexplicable brand messaging:

More transparent. More efficient. And, above all, more citizen-centric. In other words, smarter government. See how the planet’s getting smarter.

Huh? What does all that mean? I have no idea. It certainly doesn’t pass my 15-second branding test, and it certainly garners no GutShare™. Yet, there it is for millions to see. Lazy dartboard branding: If today’s message doesn’t stick, throw another one tomorrow.

Had the marketing exec who posted this gobbledygook on IBM’s homepage tried to trademark it, he would have failed. In fact, he never would have submitted it to the USPTO, knowing that it doesn’t merit a trademark. Why use it at all, then? Good question.
Rx from The WhiteNoise Doctor™

Marketers must treat each brand like a trademark, as if the USPTO will scrutinize it. The results will amaze. No more incomprehensible slogans and meaningless jargon that neither attract customers nor sell products.

Make your brand pass both the GutShare™ and trademark tests. The trash will end up in the trash, instead of on your homepage. And, the surviving gem will do its job: attract paying customers.


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2009 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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