The world of big trade events is back in full swing, and those of us who work on trademark law mean that the annual meeting of the International Trademark Association (INTA) has returned after an absence since 2019. Although the number of participants will be small – significantly – we are still looking forward to the gathering of thousands of trademark lawyers from around the world in Washington, DC.
So, when the competition for the biggest brand is centralized, and the biggest product from the biggest competitor is unveiled, it seems somewhat uncomfortable that this launch of the launch – the electric Ford F-150 – comes in the middle of the time when trademark lawyers around the world Celebrating the importance of brand names in the world economy. The Ford “F-150” brand not only shrugs its shoulders at the idea, but also gives the board a really nice “buzz” of extraordinary creative people developing brand names, who market and advertise them. As well as brand-name fanboys and fangirls who are actually disguised trademark lawyers who protect and defend these brands.
The INTA Annual Meeting is a place where people come together and, as in every industry, renew old friendships and business contacts, gather intelligence from partners and competitors.
Carmakers have always been a dominant force in the American economy, and one of the most iconic brands is what makes many trademark lawyers cry: Ford’s “F-150” truck.
The “F-150” product is the best-selling vehicle – not just the best-selling truck – in the USA and Canada. In the United States alone, Ford has sold 700,000 F-150 trucks, and in recent years has sold 900,000 trucks annually in the United States. This translates into billions of dollars in sales for Ford each year. Also branded “F-150” is the key chain from T-shirts and other common accessories that people like to wear, paired with the brand of their choice. With a brand as big as the “F-150”, only this small sale creates significant business. The power of the name even goes to a well-publicized “F-150” trademark dispute vs. Ferrari (yes, that’s right – a Ford vs. Ferrari!) It has done little to discredit the “F-150” brand.
Here at INTA, the things that people have in mind are metavers, blockchains and NFTs.
Finding out how companies will deal with turbulent landscapes where their trademark rights have been revoked, given some new laws, is another question.
Conventions like INTA include traditional trademark questions, what is a good sign that can be easily translated – literally or otherwise – in different markets? (This is less likely to be a problem for a mark like the “F-150”) Covid testing and vaccine-related trademarks are another hot area this year.
Another topic of discussion at INTA is whether the court hearings will continue from afar. Our firm is back in court personally, but as with other professional fields, many of the benefits and practicalities of remote work remain intact and are probably better here. Over the years, judges have appeared from afar in court at the U.S. Trademark Office. I was talking to a judge at the conference and he believed that a private hearing in a trademark office would be a thing of the past.
Many court judges have held telephone conferences over the years when they wanted to check-in with parties and allowed lawyers and participants from remote towns to join by telephone conference call.
The 6,700 people representing companies and law firms around the world cannot be wrong in claiming that brand names play an important role in product marketing; As such, brand names need to be protected. Your key is to find an irresistible name that can be uniquely associated with your product or service. After that, the brand owner has to invest in keeping other brands growing with names or titles around its perimeter that may be similar, and eventually stop selling through confused retail customers, business-to-business wholesalers, or both.
Trademarks are important because it’s important to choose a name that others can’t easily use; Most importantly, one must actively protect one’s rights against potential violations by policing, which can range from keeping counterfeit products on the market to writing to potential competitors in other cases when it seems they are choosing a name (intentionally or not). And then, finally, to engage in the legal process available through the trademark office and the court (possibly with a preliminary injunction) when a resolution cannot be reached and there is no time for discussion because the violation is so serious.
The name of the new product does not always follow the rules. Some product owners always tell their potential customers what their product or service means, or what it does or what it says, all great features – but such descriptive nomenclature can rarely be applied against a competitor who likes the same good idea and the same Or tries to put pressure on its own customers by using very similar descriptive names. This rule is regularly broken – both intentionally by companies that know the rules of descriptions, and unintentionally by others who do not know the rules of descriptions – and then there are third-party parties who break the rules knowing exactly what they are trying to accomplish. Competitor costs.
Sometimes, rule breakers win. But bringing great names – and doing everything possible to help them stay unique – is a demanding business. Looking around the Washington Convention Center this week, this is definitely one that attracts crowds.