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Springfords LLP blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

Should've Checked The Trademark

05 September 2016

A possibly myopic ruling by a government department has given a nationwide opticians a thumbs up over their plan to trademark the use of a common verb contraction. Shouldn’t be allowed, should it?

We all know the company that has built its profile on the back of an amusing marketing campaign. It’s spearheaded by a series of TV ads, that poke fun at short-sighted individuals who have not taken the precaution of visiting a branch of the putative eye care specialists. Among them a hapless vet attempts to revive a fur hat, and an astronaut makes a textbook Shuttle landing, only to find he’s touched down at Luton Airport. All of course are concluded with the familiar catchphrase recommending that a better course of action would have involved a visit for a consultation with the company in question.

Now, possibly as a result of widespread parody, the company has sought to trademark the use of “should’ve” and the misspelling “shouldve” in marketing contexts.

Their case has been heard by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), a government department dealing with trademarks, patents and copyright. They have, in their formal parlance, issued an opinion agreeing that the application is valid.

In common with most other commercial operations, Springfords take steps to protect our intellectual property, and the value of these assets are always worth accounting for, no matter what your line of business.

Astonishing as it may seem, this “probably” isn’t the first instance of a single word becoming part of a trademark ruling. What sets this formal opinion apart is the scope that’s been afforded to these particular purveyors of ocular enhancement. Whereas a well known pseudo-Scottish burger chain has been given leave to refer to themselves in the first person, albeit without a capital letter, and no other fast food chain can claim that they too are loving it, this ophthalmic services provider has two closely typed pages of restrictions applied to the use of “should have” in its contracted form.

Whether it’s right or wrong to attempt to trademark a word - and objections can be raised - it’s usually worth your while to check out if anyone has already come up with your killer idea, before you get killed in court for a substantial infringement - especially if you think you’ve just invented a word.

Checking can be as easy as a web search. A browse of the trademarks pages of the IPO is a fascinating trawl through the fabulous and failed of UK industry. For example, “metrosexual”, once the hip term for the hippest of the hip, was a trademark for about a decade. Its current official status is “dead”, which may well reflect the fleeting fashion that once made it so popular. If your favourite sports team wins not once, not twice, but “threepeats”, don’t rush into print on any form of apparel, or you’ll be infringing a trademark that’s over twenty years old.

The bottom line is that your image and marketing is important, and adds value to your business. It’s worthwhile taking reasonable steps to protect the effort that went into developing your profile, so that you can reap the full reward for your endeavours. There’s nothing short-sighted about that. You know where you should have gone, don’t you?


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springfords blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

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