Lessons learned from suck-related registered trademarks.
Sometimes the government screws up. Like when funny license plates get issued. The Internet is full of funny.
Funny trademarks abound. When you file a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), it is examined by Trademark Examiners (who are lawyers) and (if it passes their scrutiny) then it is published in the Trademark Official Gazette, a special publication read only by lawyers. OK, it’s not just available to lawyers, but the data is not exactly user-friendly (PDF format, no feed, sheesh). And as a result, there is no meaningful public input to the trademark registration process.
Heck, a court in Maine just ruled that legal notice via a printed newspaper is insufficient because papers lack a wide audience. Notice by PDF should be next on the list.
So what do we get from inadequate public review of trademark applications? Some trademarks that should never have issued. Sure, third parties can object by filing a Letter of Protest with the USPTO, but that process is obscure and formalistic (i.e. fun for lawyers). I’d like to see a USPTO Trademark Official Gazette blog with anonymous comments enabled. That would be fun (i.e. fun for non-lawyers).
Before you read the list below, think about what a good trademark – and a good brand – is supposed to do. With strong brands, the brand reminds the consumer of the goods/services offered. Like one of those ink blot tests:
- See a swoosh symbol, think Nike shoes.
- See golden arches, think McDonald’s restaurants.
- Hear the word “Toyota,” think cars.
But if there’s no association made, then the brand is weak. And if no association is necessary, then the trademark is weak. So if you see a trademark for “Town Book Store” and you think, “Hey, I bet they sell books!” then the trademark is probably descriptive and should never have been registered by the USPTO.
There are other subtleties. Such as case. Case matters for trademarks and domain names. The USPTO search results show trademarks in ALL CAPS. I think that trademarks should be presented in their intended case. Because there is a world of difference between PenIsland.com (pen store) and PenisLand.com (something else).
Now read the table of suck-related trademarks. Don’t click the TARR links yet. Do any of these jump out at you? Below, I’ll tell you which jumped out at me.
|No.||Registered Trademark||USPTO Status|
|1||BECAUSE JAIL SUCKS||TARR|
|2||BECAUSE JAIL SUCKS||TARR|
|3||BECAUSE MOSQUITOES SUCK!||TARR|
|4||BECAUSE SEARCHING SUCKS!||TARR|
|6||CAREERS THAT DON T SUCK. SINCE YOU GOTTA WORK…||TARR|
|8||CHERRY-PICKED PODCASTS THAT DON’T SUCK||TARR|
|9||CHUPA CHUPS MOCHA FLAVOUR MOCHA||TARR|
|11||CORPORATE COFFEE SUCKS.||TARR|
|13||CREMOSA BY CHUPA CHUPS||TARR|
|14||CUZ READING THE MANUAL SUCKS!||TARR|
|15||DOES YOUR CREDIT SUCK||TARR|
|16||DOES YOUR TACKLE BAG SUCK?||TARR|
|17||DOWN TIME SUCKS||TARR|
|18||DRUNK DRIVING SUKZ||TARR|
|20||ENERGY VAMPIRES SUCK||TARR|
|22||GAMES THAT DON’T SUCK||TARR|
|23||GO SUCK A FROG!||TARR|
|27||HS HATERS SUCK.COM||TARR|
|28||IF IT DOESN’T SUCK INK FROM A BOTTLE, IT’S NOT A REAL PEN||TARR|
|29||IT DOESN’T SUCK||TARR|
|31||JUST SUCK IT||TARR|
|32||PARA CHUPARSE LOS DEDOS||TARR|
|39||SUCK & BLOW||TARR|
|40||SUCK BANG BLOW||TARR|
|43||SUCK IT UP||TARR|
|44||SUCK IT UP||TARR|
|45||SUCK IT UP IT’S TASTY!||TARR|
|46||SUCK IT UP!||TARR|
|47||SUCK THE RED FOX||TARR|
|60||TOSSED OFF TRY TO SURVIVE TRY NOT TO SUCK||TARR|
|62||WE SHUCKUM-YOU SUCK’UM SHUCKUMS OYSTER PUB||TARR|
|63||WE SUCK YOUR GUTTERS CLEAN||TARR|
|64||YOUR HAIR SUCKS||TARR|
|65||YOUR HAIR SUCKS||TARR|
#1 and #2 – BECAUSE JAIL SUCKS. I include these to show that one trademark can have multiple registrations covering different goods and services. So no funny business here.
#8 – CHERRY-PICKED PODCASTS THAT DON’T SUCK. Hmm, I wonder if this trademark covers services for podcasts? Sure sounds descriptive to me.
#63 – WE SUCK YOUR GUTTER CLEAN. Same issue as above. I’m guessing this is a suction-based gutter cleaning service. Descriptive.
#26 – HOOVER. I just wanted to make sure you’re paying attention. This trademark has been in use for over 100 years and the association it creates is very strong: vacuum cleaners. Strong brand, strong trademark.
#30 – ITDUZNTSUK. A good example of why case matters. See ITDUZNTSUK, think ItDoesn’tSuck.
#52 – SUCKBUCKS. I saw this and immediately (ink-blot like) thought of StarBucks coffee shops because of the “Bucks” suffix. Just like McFoo reminds me of McDonald’s and Bar-R-US reminds me of Toys-R-Us. I actually thought “SuckBucks” was a play on “StarBucks Sucks.” Sure enough, they offer tea and coffee. Whether intentional or not, actual confusion was created in the mind of this consumer. If I were StarBucks, I’d say this trademark sucks.
#47 – SUCK THE RED FOX. Saving the best (or worst) for last. I don’t know if there is a word for when letters are swapped in a phrase to mask the true meaning (sort of like Pig Latin), but that’s what happened in this case. Pardon my language, but I want Google to index this. SUCK THE RED FOX means FUCK THE RED SOX, and any moron in a hurry who sees the products (click on “Specimens”) will realize this.
#47 is Terry Francona’s uniform number. And it’s opening day for the Red Sox. The Red Sox considered opposing this trademark but did not pursue the opposition. Why, Theo, why?
Now that’s a trademark that sucks!
5 Replies to “* Trademarks That Suck”
@bmanevitz Yeah, it has issues. Note that the USPTO registered the scandalous Spoonerism SUCK THE RED FOX trademark: http://is.gd/jiVg
It’s called a Spoonerism. http://is.gd/3FY1
Trademark likelihood of confusion? RED SOX vs. SUCK THE RED FOX (for baseball hats): http://is.gd/jiVg
Trademark likelihood of confusion? StarBucks vs. SuckBucks (for coffee): http://is.gd/jiVg
My 2nd choice headline for this article was: USPTO allows scandalous equivalent of F*CK THE RED SOX trademark to issue: http://is.gd/jiVg