July 12, 2006
Product Naming: The Inevitable Trademark Conflict
Just yesterday, Tuesday, July 11, I read about two name changes.
What struck me about these name changes is that both of the changes were forced by a large corporation against a smaller company.
In the UK, Burger King has stopped Wholebake from using the Whopper brand name for its vegetarian flapjacks. I fully understand this, since both companies are in the food business and many restaurant product brands end up in the supermarket, from Stouffer’s to Starbucks.
I can see Managing Director of Wholebake Mark Gould’s point when he says “Once again, it’s a case of a big company using its financial muscle to squash the little guy." However, I think it is very justifiable and appropriate for Burger King to protect its Whopper trademark.
However, I have a harder time understanding why Avon would consider a magazine, ANEW, a conflict with their ANEW skincare products. In my opinion, the odds of consumers confusing a magazine title and a body lotion brand are quite remote.
But, what this does illustrate is that if you’re a big company with deep pockets, like an Avon, you can challenge the trademark, and a smaller company, even if they have the right to use the name, usually doesn’t have the financial resources to fight for it.
On the other side of this issue is a Microsoft that just decides to use an existing trademark owned by a small company. That's what they did with Internet Explorer. In the end, Microsoft paid the company $5 million, which equates to about 10 cents to us.
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