You tried to trademark what?!

A video game company has trademarked the word "candy". Image: cc nicubunu
The word “candy” is now trademarked for video games. Image: cc nicubunu

A video game company has just trademarked the word “candy”. I am not making this up.

This post is about trademark law, which has gone from the ridiculous to the frappuccino.

The makers of highly addictive mobile phone game Candy Crush Saga have successfully trademarked the word “candy” for use in mobile games, and Apple’s App Store – itself the subject of a recent trademark stoush – seems to be acting as heavy for the company.

As reported on the GameZebo blog this morning, developers trying to sell games on the App Store that have “candy” in the title have been getting infringement letters.

But this is not even the most ridiculous trademark infringement story of the past few years.

Facebook owns the term “face” and Apple owns your retina.

You think they can’t get any more ridiculous? Enter Walmart, which tried to trademark the smiley face. Seriously.

But there is fightback. A small, roadside Missouri brewery was sent a cease-and-desist letter in December because it was selling a beer called a Frappucino, which infringed on coffee chain Starbucks’ trademark. In response, the Exit 6 Pub and Brewery sent a snarky letter and a check for $6, which was the total profit it had earned from three sales of the beer, NPR reported.

Owner Jeff Britton said he never meant to cause confusion between the coffee chiller and his foamy brew.

“We never thought that our beer-drinking customers would have thought that the alcoholic beverage coming out of the tap would have actually been coffee from one of the many, many, many stories located a few blocks away,” he wrote.

“Exit 6 has ceased and desisted all use of the F Word and there will be absolutely no further use of the F Word in the naming of any further Exit 6 beers … we just want to help a business like Starbucks. Us small business owners need to stick together.”

Scottish tennis star Andy Murray won the right to trademark his own name this month; to protect his earning capacity as a video game star and sportswear brand.

At least he intends to use it. Pop sweetheart Adele reportedly trademarked her moniker in 2012 just to stop others from doing the same.

That brings us to Julian Assange. Dear, strange, talented Julian Assange. He registered his name as a trademark in 2011 – well after sexual abuse allegations were brought but before Assange donned a blond John Farnham wig and sang the tragic Aussie classic You’re The Voice. In an attempt to win a seat in the Senate. As you do.

Some might argue he should be trying to find a new name.

Also in my home country, chocolate maker Cadbury tried to trademark the color purple, to stop rivals from using similar colored packaging. The case eventually failed but only after its sweets nemesis Nestle brought a complaint – and even then, it took five years to resolve.

In a more tragic case, the mother of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin has been trying to trademark her son’s name so the family has the legal right to ask companies like eBay to remove goods being sold illegally in his name.

You can even trademark distinctive sounds, like the sound of an Intel computer booting or the rib-shaking stutter of a Harley Davidson engine.

I’m one to defend intellectual property as much as the next guy and I pity those who have to trademark their own name to protect it from brand damage by inferior products.

But surely, I have the right to wear a smiley face while eating candy out of purple packaging? So long as I don’t make a sound.

Note: special thanks to Corey Edwards, James R Chown and Andre Awadalla for their input to the discussion of this blog.

2 thoughts on “You tried to trademark what?!

  1. Baz says:

    Do you think it would be possible to trademark any word you like? I’d like to trademark the word ‘bawbag’ because it’s my favourite insult. Would this mean I’d get royalties every time someone called someone else a bawbag? Because if so, the income from Glasgow alone on a single Friday night could set me up for life.

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