Twenty-four years ago today, one of the most recognizable floating symbols on the deep blue sea was first registered as a trademark in the United States. On November 30, 1993, Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. was granted U.S. Registration No. 1808013 for a mark consisting of “a design of a ship's funnel.” Anyone who has ever taken a Carnival cruise will doubtless recognize the distinctive shape and appearance of the funnels on the company’s ships, which visually set them apart from the ships of rival cruise lines. The registered funnel design is still in use throughout the Carnival fleet, and the 1808013 registration is still in force.
Ninety-eight years ago today, one of the most famous names in lung cancer history was first registered as a trademark in the United States. On September 30, 1919, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was granted U.S. Registration No. 126760 for the mark CAMEL for “smoking-tobacco and cigarettes.” Though not registered until 1919, the CAMEL mark was first used for deathsticks in 1901, has been used continuously in American commerce for more than a century, and was purportedly the brand of choice among doctors in the 1940s. The CAMEL mark remains in use, the 126760 registration is still in force, and CAMEL cigarettes are just as good for you as they were a hundred years ago. Hey, smoke up, Johnny!
Forty-five years ago today, the name of Cincinnati, Ohio’s professional football team was first registered as a United States trademark. On August 8, 1972, the creatively-named Cincinnati Bengals, Inc. was granted U.S. Registration No. 940763 for the mark BENGALS for “entertainment services in the form of professional football game competition.” The Bengals were formed as a member of the American Football League in 1966 by Paul Brown, the team’s first head coach and namesake of its current stadium in downtown Cincinnati. Brown took the name from an earlier but unrelated “Cincinnati Bengals” football team that played from 1937-1941. The Bengals became part of the National Football League after the AFL’s 1969 merger with the NFL. Today, the BENGALS name is still in use, the 940763 registration is still in force, and the team still hopes to one day win a Super Bowl.
Almost anyone in this country who has ever been or had a school-age child is likely familiar with the publishing company known as Scholastic, and exactly four score and seven years ago, the SCHOLASTIC mark was first registered as a trademark in the United States. On August 5, 1930, The Scholastic Publishing Company was granted U.S. Registration No. 273405 for the mark SCHOLASTIC for a “semi-monthly magazine.” Founded in 1920, Scholastic would grow to become “the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books…employing more than 8,400 employees and serving customers in more than 165 countries in 45 languages.” The company’s current list of publications include the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings series, and numerous elementary school favorites such as The Magic School Bus and Captain Underpants series. Today, the SCHOLASTIC mark is more prominent than ever, and the 273405 registration is still in force.
The American Institute of Architects, or “AIA,” is the preeminent professional association for licensed architects in the United States, and on this day fifty-two years ago, its name was first registered as a collective membership mark. On August 3, 1965, the AIA was granted U.S. Registration Nos. 793831 and 793832 for the marks AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS and AIA. Both marks were registered for “indicating membership in good standing in applicant,” the “applicant” being a member architect. Unlike traditional trademarks and service marks, which are used to identify the source of particular goods or services, collective membership marks exist solely to indicate that the user of the mark is a member of a particular organization, such as the AIA. Interestingly, although the AIA traces its roots back to 1857, the association waited more than a century before finally getting around to registering its name as a collective membership mark, which, one imagines, is quite a bit longer than it would have taken a group called the “American Institute of Trademark Attorneys.” As the ancient Romans used to say, “Carpe TM!”
Forty-five years ago today, a brand that would become indelibly linked to the information age and affect countless lives across the globe was first registered as a trademark in the United States. On August 1, 1972, the Intel Corporation of Mountain View, California was granted U.S. Registration No. 939641 for the mark INTEL for “integrated circuits, registers and semiconductor memories.” In the 1970s and 1980s, INTEL chips were instrumental in ushering in the era of the personal computer, and the brand achieved near-monopoly status in the computer world in the 1990s. Today, the INTEL brand still reigns supreme, the 939641 registration is still in force, and the company remains the largest and most valuable chip maker in the world.
Two score and fifteen years ago today, one of the best-known brands in snack cake history was first registered as a trademark in the United States. On July 31, 1962, the McKee Baking Company of Collegedale, Tennessee was granted U.S. Registration No. 735443 for the mark LITTLE DEBBIE for “Oatmeal Cream Pie.” As the company recounts on its website, “In 1960, the company pioneered the family pack, a package of individual snack cakes that sold for 49 cents. They named them after their granddaughter Debbie, and the rest is history.” The immediate success of the LITTLE DEBBIE snack cake line in the early 1960s provided conclusive proof that the persistent threat of nuclear annihilation could not curb America’s sweet tooth, and the social and political upheaval of that decade was no doubt made easier by the ready availability of LITTLE DEBBIE pre-packaged treats. Today, the LITTLE DEBBIE brand is touted as “America’s number-one snack cakes,” and the 735443 registration remains in force.
A quarter-century ago today, one of sparkling water’s most iconic and enduring brands was first registered in the United States. On June 30, 1992, the Clearly Canadian Beverage Corporation was granted U.S. Registration No. 1697898 for the mark CLEARLY CANADIAN for “flavored mineral waters, fruit flavored mineral waters, non-flavored mineral waters, carbonated mineral waters, non-carbonated mineral waters, bottled drinking waters, spring waters, soft drinks and fruit juices.” The CLEARLY CANADIAN brand was founded in Canada in 1987, and achieved widespread recognition in North America, Europe, Scandinavia, and parts of Asia in the 1990s. The CLEARLY CANADIAN mark is still in use, the 1697898 registration is still in force, and the brand has recently been revitalized under new American management. In the interest of full disclosure, it should also be noted that the company has excellent taste in trademark counsel.
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.