Bloomberg published a nice piece just the other day on common phrases that are trademarked. Here are a few:
“We should talk” (Bank of New York)
“That’s a good idea” (Rubbermaid)
Readers unaware of how trademarks work would be forgiven for thinking that they can’t use those phrases anymore, or at least in business.
Obviously this is wrong – the trademarks cover goods and services in the particular classes filed for by the owners (and will stay on the register only to the extend of their ongoing use, and in this case only in the US – I haven’t checked elsewhere.)
All of this made me think again though about the strategic benefit of perception. Sure the competitors of these companies know what the limits are in terms of these phrases and their use. The general public doesn’t though and the general public often reacts negatively to overly capricious ‘land grabs‘ for intellectual property. (Witness the outcry over Disney filing for ‘Seal Team 6’ the day after the Bin Laden raid.)
If consumers are your market, and your consumers don’t like IP Rights, then be cautious about the ones you get and how you use them.
On that point, what’s your view – did this Bloomberg piece do more harm than good for the trademark owners named?