Think Beyond Obvious when Seeking Trademarks, ABA Speaker Says
The sound of the roar of the MGM lion is trademarked.
Trademarks go far beyond logos and taglines—you can protect sights, sounds, textures, scents and more, according to Corby Anderson, an attorney with Nexsen Pruet in Charlotte, North Carolina, who presented at the American Bar Association’s recent Forum on Franchising.
Think of the roar of the MGM lion—that’s a unique sound and it’s trademarked, she explained, and gave many more examples. “We’re here to talk about protecting a franchise’s most valuable assets—its IP” or intellectual property. “And today we’re talking about non-traditional IP,” she said.
But when seeking trademarks, don’t tout the functionality of your company’s unique features because you can’t trademark function. For example, Hooters couldn’t defend its trade dress against a Florida firm because the function of those skimpy outfits was ‘to arouse men,’” she said, to laughter from the crowd.
Naser Baseer, an attorney with Starbucks Corp. in Seattle, explained his company aims to identify and protect each element of a store as well as the combination of elements. “We look at it as a long-term strategy,” he said about their approach to protecting IP.
For example, Starbucks has filed for utility patents on everything from equipment, such as its VIA instant coffee, to service. “You never know when you’ll have a hit or a miss, so it’s worth it to go through the process,” he said.