Trademarks are essential for businesses to protect their brands and prevent competitors from using similar names or logos. However, not all trademarks get approved. There are many businesses that have logos and business names that are incredibly general and rely too much on everyday words and phrases. Some famous trademarks are just blatant attempts to find a way to sue another competitor or otherwise hamper their ability to compete. When this is the case, they will be denied, not only by trademark services in the United States but abroad as well.
The trademark attorneys at Emerson Thomson Bennett know some famous examples that you may have forgotten about. We can lean on these examples when consulting on whether or not your trademark will work.
Did You Hear About These Famous Trademarks?
The Lego Brick Shape
Lego is one of the most well-known toy companies in the world. It’s famous for its interlocking plastic bricks that have melded with many different licensed franchises. When they applied for a trademark on the shape of their brick in 2000, it seemed like a no-brainer to them. However, after a decade-long legal battle, the European Union’s Court of Justice ultimately rejected their request in 2010.
The court stated that the shape of a product can only be trademarked if it fulfills three requirements:
- It is distinguishable
- Not solely functional
- Has acquired distinctive character
In the case of Lego’s brick shape, the court ruled that it was too functional to be protected as a trademark. They could not allow Lego to block other manufacturers from producing what was a basic technical building shape.
This decision caused quite a stir in the business and legal world. While many argued that Lego’s brick shape was distinct, the courts and manufacturers disagreed. Today, the court’s ruling remains in place, making it one of the most famous examples of a trademark being denied.
“Apple’s” Apple Logo
When you think of Apple, you likely think of its famous logo that depicts a bitten apple. However, before the company became a household name, they faced multiple trademark rejections for their logo.
In 1977, when Apple was still a small start-up, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied their initial application to register their logo. The USPTO argued that the logo was too generic and lacked distinctiveness. It eventually did get approval for its logo after selling products in the American market for years.
Apple continued to face rejections and trademark issues for years. One notable case is in Japan, where a record company called ‘Apple Corps’ sued them for trademark infringement. It wasn’t until 2010 that Apple finally succeeded in registering its logo as a trademark in Japan after reaching an agreement with Apple Corps.
This famous example shows how persistence and compromise can eventually lead to successful trademark registration. It also shows that when coming up with a company logo, it may be better to use an inspiration that isn’t so simple and ubiquitous.
McDonald’s “Big Mac”
Everyone knows McDonald’s. This global fast-food chain has been the center of news and food for decades, but in 2019, it hit a snag with the trademark of its premier product, the “Big Mac.” In the European Union, they lost the trademark after another fast food chain, Supermac’s, challenged their trademark.
The case began when the small Irish chain argued that McDonald’s was engaging in “trademark bullying.” This means that they were hoarding trademarks and not allowing businesses to use their own brand name. Supermac’s brand is a combination of the owner’s name “Pat McDonagh” and the term “mac” for food.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) ruled in favor of Supermac’s. They stated that McDonald’s had failed to provide sufficient evidence to show the actual use of the term “Big Mac” in the relevant five-year period prior to the filing of the cancellation request. McDonald’s, despite being a global powerhouse, had their trademark denied due to lack of proper use, serving as a reminder that trademark rights can be lost if not actively maintained and defended.
Contact the Attorneys at ETB Law So Your Trademark Isn’t Rejected
These are just a few examples of famous trademarks being denied. They serve as a reminder that obtaining trademark protection is not always guaranteed. Trademarks require careful consideration of the requirements set by authorities like the USPTO.
Businesses must also be prepared to face legal battles to protect their trademarks. This makes it crucial for companies to thoroughly research and consult with legal professionals before applying for trademarks to avoid facing the same fate as these famous brands. Overall, these cases highlight the importance of understanding the complexities and limitations surrounding trademark registration, even for well-known and successful businesses.
For more information and assistance with your trademark, contact the attorneys at Emerson Thomson Bennett. With our experience, we can help you obtain the trademarks you need in the United States and abroad.