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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.

Wholebake WhopperIn the UK, 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.

Burger King logoI 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.

ANEW partial logoHowever, I have a harder time understanding why 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.

Avon logoBut, 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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Posted by William Lozito at July 12, 2006 8:49 AM
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1 Comment

What is interesting is that Burger King itself may have been liable to the same sort of trademark infringement suit. There is a malted milk confection called "Whoppers" that has been on the market since 1949, at least six or seven years before Burger King was founded. I wonder if Hersheys predecessor Leaf, Inc. ever threatened to sue Burger King over the name of their sandwich... :)

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