Thirty-four years ago today, what is arguably the ultimate tagline in the automotive world was first registered in the United States. On May 31, 1983, German car maker Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft (“Bavarian Motor Works,” or “BMW” for short) was granted U.S. Registration No. 1240182 for the mark THE ULTIMATE DRIVING MACHINE for “automobiles.” Debuting in 1975, the slogan quickly gained worldwide fame and became synonymous with BMW’s brand identity, helping to sell a generation’s worth of cars. While opinions may differ as to whether BMW actually makes the ultimate driving machines, it is beyond dispute that THE ULTIMATE DRIVING MACHINE has been one of the most successful advertising slogans in the history of the automobile. The famous tagline is still in use today, and Registration No. 1240182 remains in force.
One score and one year ago, a tiny, tiny, obscure subset of the human population is rumored to have held plastic LEGO® brick lighters aloft to commemorate a banner day in the annals of construction toy trademark history (or so we’ve heard). On April 30, 1996, the LEGO TECHNIC mark was first registered in the United States when U.S. Registration No. 1971387 was granted to Interlego AG. Like other LEGO® trademarks before and since, the LEGO TECHNIC mark was registered for “construction toys,” but in practice, the exclusive LEGO TECHNIC name was reserved for premium building sets featuring advanced functionality and specialized pieces such as gears, axles, and motors. The LEGO TECHNIC line was initially called the LEGO EXPERT BUILDER series when it debuted in 1977, but was renamed the LEGO TECHNIC series in 1986. The LEGO TECHNIC mark remains in use, the 1971387 registration is still in force, and at least one trademark attorney practicing today still thinks back wistfully on building the very first set in the line in 1977.
Sixty-five years ago today, the name of a cinematic, chronographic icon was first registered as a trademark in the United States. On March 25, 1952, Swiss watchmaker Omega Louis Brandt & Frere, S.A. was granted U.S. Registration No. 556602 for the mark SEAMASTER, for “watches, watch parts and watch movements.” Long a favored wrist accessory of celebrities, politicians, and other public figures, the Omega SEAMASTER brand gained a new level of fame in 1995 when it replaced Rolex as the preferred onscreen timepiece of James Bond, the cinema’s most celebrated secret agent. SEAMASTER branded watches have featured prominently in every James Bond movie since 1995’s Goldeneye, and Omega even produced two 007-themed commemorative editions of the SEAMASTER watch in 2002 and 2006. The SEAMASTER name remains in use, the 556602 registration is still in force, and best of all, you don’t have to be a member of Her Majesty’s Secret Service to wear one.
One of the many commonly misunderstood aspects of U.S. trademark law is that nearly anything that serves (1) as an indicator of the source of particular goods or services, and (2) to distinguish the goods or services of one seller from another, can function as a trademark. Thus, trademarks are not limited to words or logos, but can also extend to non-traditional marks such as product appearances (trade dress) packaging configurations, sounds, and even smells. One prime example of such a non-traditional mark was first registered on this date twenty-nine years ago, when Weber-Stephen Products Co. was granted its first U.S. registration for the iconic ornamental appearance of its original charcoal kettle grill. U.S. Registration No. 1478530, consisting of “a three-dimensional pictorial representation of the distinctive configuration of the kettle portion of applicant’s barbecue grills,” including “a bottom of generally semi-spherical shape having a top of generally semi-ellipsoid shape,” was granted on March 1, 1988, for “barbeque grills.” A version of Weber’s original charcoal kettle grill is still produced today, and because trademark registrations are perpetually renewable for marks that remain in continuous use, the 1478530 registration remains in force. Weber’s successful efforts to protect the unique and distinctive appearance of its kettle grill serve as a useful reminder that brand owners may be entitled to protection beyond just their brand names.
Eighty-nine years ago today, confectionary history was made, and a multi-billion-dollar trademark was first registered in the United States. On February 28, 1928, U.S. Trademark Registration No. 239311 was granted to Mars Incorporated for the mark SNICKERS for “candy comprising candy bars.” Named after one of the Mars family horses, the SNICKERS bar was first introduced in 1923, and the caramel, nougat, and peanut-filled confection quickly became one of the world’s most beloved sugary treats. Both the SNICKERS mark and the 239311 registration are still in use, and, packed with peanuts, the SNICKERS bar still apparently really satisfies.
On February 17, 1913, one of the world’s most recognized automobile emblems was first registered as a trademark in the United States. One hundred and three years ago today, the Chevrolet Motor Company of Flint, Michigan was granted U.S. Registration No. 95398 for the “Chevrolet Bowtie” mark. According to Chevrolet’s website, “[m]any variations in coloring and detail of the Chevrolet bowtie have come and gone over the decades since its introduction in late 1913, but the essential shape has never changed. In 2004, Chevrolet began to phase in the gold bowtie that today serves as the brand identity for all of its cars and trucks marketed globally.” The centenarian bowtie mark is still in use, and because trademark registrations are perpetually renewable for marks that remain in continuous use, Registration No. 95398 remains in force.
Six score and four years ago, one of the modern world’s oldest, most famous, and most enduringly popular brands was first registered as a trademark in the United States. On January 31, 1893, The Coca Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia was granted U.S. Registration No. 22406 for the mark COCA-COLA in stylized lettering (specifically, per the registration certificate, “with the lower portion of the ‘C’ beginning the word ‘Coca’ extended under the entire word, in the form of a dash, and the top of the ‘C’ beginning the word ‘Cola’ extended over the letters following in the form of a dash”). Originally marketed as a brain tonic and nerve stimulant, the mark was accordingly registered for “nutrient or tonic beverages.” The company has since dropped “nutrient beverages” from the list of registered goods, but the original COCA-COLA registration is still in force, and both the beverage’s usefulness as a “tonic” and the world’s insatiable appetite for overpriced sugar water apparently live on to this day.
Forty-eight years ago today, one of the most celebrated and venerable marques in automotive history was first registered as a trademark in the United States. On December 31, 1968, history was made when U.S. Registration No. 862632 was granted to Italian automaker Ferrari S.p.A. for the FERRARI prancing horse logo for “automobiles.” A second FERRARI logo was registered in 1969 as U.S. Registration No. 874164. Both registrations are still in force today, and both logos are still in use nearly five decades later. Interestingly (to trademark nerds, anyway), while the FERRARI logo trademarks were first registered in the U.S. in the late 1960s, the name FERRARI was apparently not registered as a standard character mark for automobiles in the U.S. until 2004, thirty-six years later.
Forty-nine years ago today, the DALLAS COWBOYS was first registered as a trademark in the United States. On December 19, 1967, U.S. Registration No. 841044 was granted to the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Inc. for “entertainment services-namely, football exhibitions rendered live in stadia and through the media of radio and television broadcasts.” The Cowboys have continuously rendered their entertainment services, live in stadia and through the media of radio and television broadcasts, since 1960, and the 841044 registration remains in force today.
One hundred fourteen years ago today, a marque made its mark in the annals of trademark history. On December 2, 1902, Olds Motor Works was granted its first registration for the OLDSMOBILE mark for “vehicles.” Purchased by General Motors in 1908, the OLDSMOBILE name endured for more than a century as one of the country’s most recognizable brands. At the time that the OLDSMOBILE division was shuttered by General Motors in 2004, it was the oldest surviving American automobile marque, and the original trademark registration for the OLDSMOBILE mark was still in force. However, because U.S. trademarks require continuous use in order to remain valid, Registration No. 39405 was ineligible for renewal and was cancelled in 2015.
Seventy-five years ago to the day, this country bore witness to an event that would forever change the face of breakfast cereal…into three faces. On November 18, 1941, the Kellogg Company was granted its first registration for the SNAP CRACKLE POP logo featured on the boxes for its enduringly popular RICE KRISPIES® brand cereal. “Snap,” “Crackle,” and “Pop” were a trio of gnomic elves whose carefree manner and whimsical smiles brought a measure of mirth and merriment to the traditionally saturnine exercise of eating crisped rice. However, as all good things must come to an end, the original Snap, Crackle, and Pop characters were eventually phased out in favor of the newer, hipper, street-savvier versions on the current packaging, and U.S. Registration No. 391602 was allowed to expire with dignity in 2002.
October 6 has been a good day for Ben & Jerry’s trademark attorneys. On this date in 1987, the CHERRY GARCIA mark was first registered as a U.S. trademark for “ice cream.” Eleven years later, on October 6, 1998, the COFFEE COFFEE BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ mark was first registered as a U.S. trademark. Both marks are unsurprisingly registered for “ice cream.” The two registrations are both still in force, and the two flavors are both still delicious.
The Washington Post reports that the photograph in Donald Trump Jr.’s now-infamous “Skittles tweet” has been removed over copyright infringement concerns. On September 19, 2016, in what appears to be a sacchariferous twist on former Vice President Dick Cheney’s “One Percent Doctrine,” the junior Donald tweeted (heedless of both political correctness and grammatical standards), “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” To both illustrate the point and make the choice more difficult for Skittle-loving Americans, the tweet included an enticing, full-color photograph of a delicious-looking bowl of SKITTLES® brand fruit-flavored candies. The original tweet can be seen here.
Trump Jr.’s tweet was ostensibly intended to advance his father’s anti-Syrian refugee argument, and as everyone knows, a picture is worth a thousand words (or at least more than twenty-six). Unfortunately for Trump Jr. (and, by extension, anyone with an equivalently expansive sense of entitlement), he neglected to secure, or even request, a license from the photograph’s copyright holder, British photographer David Kittos. Upon discovering the misappropriation of his intellectual property by Trump Jr., Kittos, himself a refugee who left Cyprus at the age of six, promptly filed a DMCA Takedown Notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows copyright holders to compel service providers like Twitter to remove infringing content hosted on their services. As of this writing, the remainder of Trump Jr.’s tweet still stands, though it is but a candy-coated shell of its former self.
In addition to raising the question of why the son of an alleged billionaire would not simply purchase a stock photograph (and the services of a proofreader) for such occasions (instead of disregarding the need for a license as if it were an obligation to pay federal income tax), this incident also illustrates the perils of assuming that content found on the Internet is free for the taking. The safer assumption is that you need a written license, and perhaps a copyright attorney, in order to use any content that you see on the web. Caveat Trumptor! From The Washington Post.
On August 18, 1987, Italian automaker De Tomaso Modena S.P.A. was granted its first registration for the PANTERA mark. Aficionados of 1970s-era supercars may remember the De Tomaso PANTERA (Italian for “panther”), which was a low slung, mid-engined, two-seat affair that made its debut in 1971. Although production of the PANTERA model ceased in 1991, the mark is still in use for “structural parts for automobiles,” and the PANTERA registration remains in force.
On August 8, 1972, one of the most successful advertising slogans of the 1970s, IF YOU’VE GOT THE TIME, WE’VE GOT THE BEER, was registered as a U.S. trademark by the Miller Brewing Company. Forty-four years later, the registration is still in force, the slogan is still being used in advertising, and when it’s time to relax, one beer apparently still stands clear.
In 1971, a fast food legend, the QUARTER POUNDER, was born. Millions and millions of burgers later, on August 5, 1975, the QUARTER POUNDER was registered as a U.S. trademark. McDonald’s Corporation actually secured two QUARTER POUNDER registrations that day, No. 1017498 for a “hamburger sandwich,” and No. 1017623 for “restaurant services featuring a hamburger sandwich.” Both registrations are still in force, which is unsurprising since they are owned by a company that sells seventy-five burgers every second, serves one percent of the world’s population every day, and has at some point been the employer of one in every eight American workers.
Cue the creepy animatronics! On August 3, 1982, a date which will live in infamy, Pizza Time Theatre, Inc. was granted its first U.S. registration for the innocuous-sounding mark CHUCK E. CHEESE, for “providing restaurant services” and “providing video and coin operated game services, featuring costumed live and animated characters in entertainment services.” Today, almost two generations of traumatized youths later, the mark is still in use and the original registration is still in force. And the friendly, terrifying mechanical band plays on and is totally not going to kill you.