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August 29, 2005

What Do Ice Cream and Mutual Funds Have in Common?

Sloppy trademark practices.

As usual, companies in other countries continue to use U.S. trademarks that are not protected worldwide.

In India, for example, mutual fund names begat in the U.S. now have surprisingly similar counterparts based in India. Examples include:

US Mutual Fund Name India Mutual Fund Name
Putnam Classic Equity Standard Chartered Classic Equity
Dreyfus Emerging Leaders JM Emerging Leaders
Fidelity Contra SBI MF’s Contra Fund

On the other hand, there is a counter-trend emerging with companies in the U.S appropriating trademarks from foreign companies. This trend has been buoyed by U.S. immigrants who long to buy the traditional brands they cherished in their home countries. Not surprisingly, these consumers are quick to assume that a product in the U.S. with a name from home, is the product they grew up with. But often it is not.

Michoacana Ice Cream

One case in point is the iconoclastic 65-year-old Mexican brand of ice cream bars, Michoacana. [Mexican packaging is on the left; the U.S. version is on the right] Proving that imitation is the sincerest form of profitability, a firm in Modesto California started making identical products in 1991, while brazenly plagiarizing the originator’s name and logo. Since Michoacana was never trademarked in the U.S., the reasoning behind the piracy appeared perfectly logical to the U.S. imitator: “We just chose a name we knew that Mexican people would know.”

Similarly, Philippine immigrants to the U.S. can now enjoy domestically produced Magnolia ice cream in traditional South-East Asian flavors such as lychee, avocado, corn-cheese and urbe yam. Again, the U.S. brand name and company logo are strikingly familiar to the homeland’s original, but it’s California’s Ramar Foods International, and not Philippine’s San Miguel, that’s licking up the profits. Ramar’s rationale behind the appropriation from San Miguel is simple. “They did not have the vision to know they could sell to Filipinos here.”

Posted by William Lozito at August 29, 2005 9:31 PM
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