Thursday, July 23, 2015

Respecting trademarks

Trademark - Do Not Erase (Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.)
Trademark: Do not erase
In the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office publication Basic Facts About Trademarks, defines a trademark or service mark as:
  • A trademark is generally a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. 
  • A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Throughout this booklet, the terms “trademark” and “mark” refer to both trademarks and service marks.
Trademarks and service marks are all around us, no matter where we are or what we do. Go ahead...look at your computing device, can of soda, pen or something else and look for a ® or ™.

In the June 1, 2015 Advertising Age magazine, Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. placed an advertisement asking that people respect its registered trademark on Kleenex® Brand Tissue. In the annals of trademark protection, there are stories about those marks which have not been well protected and which people use freely. A popular trademark for a brand of tissues falls into that category (i.e., Kleenex® Brand Tissue). Are all tissues called a ______? Most people do not realize that using the trademarked name for all tissues is disrespectful of Kimberly-Clark and their intellectual property.

Reclaiming a trademark, once people are used to abusing it, is a difficult task.  However, I'll note that this ad was in an industry publication.  Kimberly-Clark wants advertisers and other companies to respect their trademark, and they may be able to win that battle. I hope the company realizes that it will take more than one ad and that the topic will need to be addressed through several channels. I hope they also realize that this will need to be an ongoing concern for the company.

The image above was taken from the Kimberly-Clark advertisement. It is not the entire image, since I've tried to use as little as possible while still conveying the message.

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