Monthly Archive: June 2020

Fluid Trademarks

Can making minor and temporary changes to your trademark strengthen your brand, or undermine it through increased consumer confusion?

 

Principles of Trademarks

Trademarks act as a “badge of origin”, enabling consumers to identify the commercial source from which goods and services come from.  They distinguish the goods and services of one business from those of other businesses within the same industry.  This has the effect of minimising confusion and protecting the consumer from counterfeit or deceptive offerings from third parties.

 

What is a Fluid Trademark?

Fluid trademarks are marks that display temporary modifications to, or variants of, the underlying trademark, often to reflect significant events or support commercial promotions.  This may be accomplished by ornamentation or decoration of the trademark whilst retaining its essential characteristics, or by employing more substantial design changes.

One of the most well-known examples of a fluid trademark is the Google Doodle.  These are variants of Google’s underlying logo, either static or animated, that reflect notable events relating to the day or period for which they are displayed.  For example, key anniversaries, sporting events, or the birthdays of historical figures.

In recent months as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of companies have introduced fluidity to their marks with elements of “separation”, in order to support the message of social distancing that we’re all encouraged to adopt in our fight against the virus.  These include the golden arches of MacDonald’s and the rings of Audi, both of which show the respective elements separated rather than attached or interlocked as they normally would be.

 

Pros and Cons of Fluid Trademarks

Fluid trademarks can strengthen the relationship between the consumer and the brand by demonstrating that the brand is energised, evolving and up-to-date with current trends.

However, there are also risks.  People might become confused if the mark is constantly changing and doesn’t appear to consistently identify the source of the goods or services being provided.  Third parties might create their own unauthorised variations of the mark, which could be relatively difficult to police particularly if the brand is employing a large number of fluid variants.  Further, the underlying mark may become vulnerable to claims of non-use and thus be at risk of removal from the trademark register, on the basis that it is not being used in its registered form.

The use of fluid trademarks should be carefully considered and managed, otherwise they risk weakening or even destroying the original mark and the brand it represents.

However, provided they do not undermine the original mark and its purpose, and are applied as part of a structured strategy, fluid trademarks can be a modern and contemporary tool to promote a brand and strengthen the relationship with the market, in ways conventional trademarks may not.

Alistair Curson

 

References

Bainbridge D. (2012). Intellectual Property, 9th edn, Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, England.

Gaurav K. (2020, March 28). “COVID-19: Audi, McDonald’s And Other Brands Redesign Logo To Promote ‘social Distancing’”. Retrieved June 27, 2020, from: https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/rest-of-the-world-news/covid-19-audi-mcdonalds-and-other-brands-redesign-logo-for-social.html

The Fashion Law. (2020, June 09). “Fluid Trademarks Can be Marketing Gold But Should Brands Really Up-and-Alter Their Famous Logos?”. Retrieved June 27, 2020, from: https://www.thefashionlaw.com/fluid-trademarks-can-be-marketing-gold-but-should-brands-really-up-and-alter-their-famed-logos/

Pearson L, Welsh JA. (2013, August 27). “Fluid Trademarks: Dynamic Brand Identities for Dynamic Times”. Retrieved June 27, 2020, from: https://www.acc.com/resource-library/fluid-trademarks-dynamic-brand-identities-dynamic-times

Petillion F, Vanleenhove C. (2009, September). “Protect your fluid trade marks in Europe”. Retrieved June 27, 2020, from: https://www.crowell.com/documents/Protect-your-fluid-trade-marks-in-Europe.pdf

Spruson & Ferguson. (2014, October 20). “What Are ‘Fluid Trademarks’?”. Retrieved June 27, 2020, from: https://www.spruson.com/trade-marks/fluid-trademarks/

WIPO PROOF: Protect Your Intellectual Assets with A Digital Time-Stamp

WIPO PROOF is a new online business service from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) that provides tamper-proof evidence of the existence of any digital file, in any format, at a specific point in time.

 

Types of IP Assets

Intellectual property (IP) rights and assets deal with the output of creative effort.  These include: inventions; designs; works of art, music and literature; trade secrets; know-how; research; data; and other business records.

Whilst some of these can be protected with formally registered IP rights (such as patents and registered designs), others are only covered by unregistered rights, or the processes within an organisation to prevent unauthorised access and disclosure.  All these assets can be highly valuable to a business, and, as such, appropriate steps should be taken to safeguard them.

Additional support mechanisms that enable management around, or otherwise discourage, unauthorised use, infringement and theft, can be of great benefit.

 

WIPO PROOF

WIPO PROOF is a new digital service to complement existing IP registration systems.  It provides a date and time-stamped fingerprint, in the form of a digital certificate, that serves as tamper-proof evidence of the existence of an asset at a specific point in time.

Using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology, WIPO PROOF generates certificates in the form of tokens.

PKI is an established cryptographic technology, widely accepted internationally, for the creation, storage, and distribution of digital certificates.  In addition, WIPO PROOF meets eIDAS (Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services) standards.  This is a European Union regulation relating to electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions.

 

Protecting Your Assets with WIPO PROOF

WIPO PROOF is specifically designed for innovation and creativity in the digital world.

Anyone can use WIPO PROOF and request a token for a specific digital file.  Any digital file of any size can be protected, including numeric, image, executable, text or audio-visual files.

WIPO PROOF is not a registration system.  Rather, it offers tamper-proof evidence of the prior existence of a digital file.  This can discourage misuse and misappropriation.  It can also safeguard intellectual assets at every stage of development from concept through to commercialization.

Trade secret strategies can benefit from the certification of a file or data that demonstrates both its value and the steps taken to protect it.  Owners of creative works can show that they were in possession of an original work before anyone else.  Scientific research and other valuable data sets can be managed more effectively through accepted verification of their existence and ownership.

The service offered by WIPO PROOF should be viewed as an additional part of your IP strategy.  It can be used to protect certain assets, lay the foundation for the eventual registration of a formal IP right, and help resolve legal disputes, arbitration and mediation.

Alistair Curson

 

References

Bainbridge D. (2012). Intellectual Property, 9th edn, Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, England.

Wikipedia. (2020, June 02). “eIDAS”. Retrieved June 13, 2020, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EIDAS

Wikipedia. (2020, June 11). “Public key infrastructure”. Retrieved June 13, 2020, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_key_infrastructure

World Intellectual Property Organisation. “WIPO PROOF – Trusted Digital Evidence”. Retrieved June 04, 2020, from: https://www.wipo.int/wipoproof/en/

World Intellectual Property Organisation. (2020, May 27). “WIPO PROOF: WIPO Introduces New Business Service That Provides Evidence of an Intellectual Asset’s Existence”. Retrieved June 04, 2020, from: https://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2020/article_0012.html