Prominent trade marks have a way of becoming a part of the modern vernacular. “Ubering” and “googling” pervade our day to day conversation, even “instagrammable” has forged a place in the dictionary. In fact, the trend itself has a word; “anthimeria” – describing the act of using a word in a new grammatical form – most often a noun as a verb.
For a brand to have its trade mark reach a level of success where its name is synonymous with its product or service is an admirable marketing feat. Yet the flip side of this “anthimeria” is the risk of losing rights in a valuable trade mark.
A trade mark is used to identify a unique product or service; the “golden arches” is symbolic of the fast food outlet McDonald’s, just as the intertwined V & L monogram signifies Louis Vuitton. In New Zealand registration of a trade mark gives the owner exclusive rights to use that mark as well as legal protection to deter others from imitating their brand. This protection can theoretically last forever – so long as the trade mark does not become generalised in a way that use of the word describes the product or service. If the trade mark is considered to describe a characteristic of the product it's registration may be vulnerable to removal.
Fashion powerhouse, Chanel, has previously shown concern over the misuse of the “Chanel” trade mark. Various fashion editors and commentators were using the brand as an adjective with terms such as “chanel-issime” and “chanel-led” to describe the styles of other designers. In an effort to shut this down, adverts were published in the Women’s Wear Daily to assert the use of Chanel as a registered trade mark; not an adjective.
Conversely, the use of the trade mark “Uber” as a verb was met with delight by the CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, stating in an Uber news release that “very few brands become verbs; for Uber to have achieved this shows how we’ve captured imaginations and become an important part of our customers’ lives”.
Whatever the branding strategy employed, trade mark registration is a valuable way to protect the rights in your brand. Whether having this brand become a part of everyday language equates to brand dilution or represents the epitome of success is – both figuratively and literally – up to you!
“Very few brands become verbs; for Uber to have achieved this shows how we’ve captured imaginations and become an important part of our customers’ lives"