August 29th, 2014
Patent lawyers can’t brand; there’s a good reason: branding and patenting are antithetical. Yet, the patent mentality pervades branding, especially in high-tech precincts.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), an agency in the Department of Commerce, exists to protect intellectual property in America. Under a single roof, it facilitates two entities that couldn’t be more different.
Patents are dry, mind-numbing, functional, broad, arcane descriptions of unique inventions, bereft of emotion — and they must be.
Trademarks, on the other hand, are (supposed to be) unique, narrow, memorable, evocative words, names, and slogans intended to grab us emotionally. Frequently, they’re meaningless.
These two fiefdoms — patents and trademarks — and their concomitant experts, purposes, and languages, MUST be kept separate.
Leave Patent Language in the Patent
I have a client, Peter Redford, CEO of iLook.tv and holder of 40+ patents. Let’s look at three of these patents:
Redford’s patent titles are intentionally functional, broad, and arcane; otherwise, they’d not be valid or defensible. But, he can’t use that unemotional patent language in branding.
On many occasions, I’ve heard young entrepreneurs, competing for capital at investor-pitch conferences, describe their products with eye-glazing patent language. It is excruciatingly painful to witness. Worse, there’s peer pressure on them to continue it!
Leave patent language in the patent. Alas, even large companies drag it into their pitches and homepages and elsewhere. Yes, they do. People feel comfort in using granular jargon; the more, the better. It’s safe. This might work for inside baseball — but nowhere else.
Useless as Hashtags
Trademarks are completely different; they’re for branding: identification and loyalty. Coca Cola has a registered (circle-R) trademark for its flagship soda-pop product. Coke’s latest tagline, Live Positively — an unregistered trademark — is generic, unoriginal, forgettable, akin to buckle your seatbelt.
As I’ve written and spoken ad nauseam, people love to blend in, to avoid risk, to appear vanilla and unprovocative. The result: patent-like, emotionless customer messaging.
Because too many CEOs favor the impotent, politically correct branding committee, we’re bombarded with trademarked slogans, like Coke’s, as nebulous and useless as hashtags (read “CEOs: Fire Your Hashtaggers”), which resemble patent titles.
Parting Advice to CEOs
In his Outliers book, Malcolm Gladwell taught us that gaining expertise in any endeavor requires 10,000 hours of practice. Patent lawyers, focused on patent law, are experts in boring language, as they must be — not in branding.
Would you hire me to write your patent application? No? Then don’t hire a patent lawyer, or someone who thinks and talks like one, to brand. Patent lawyers can’t brand.
If a patent mentality pervades your branding billboards — homepage, brochure, salespitch, advertising, keynotes, and interviews with media pros — end it, now. Branding is your #1 priority. Get the expertise you need to succeed.
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.
© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.