Friday, October 15, 2010

Company trademark vs product trademark

Dear Rich: I have invented a very unique and patent pending kitchen product. I think I have settled on a name for the particular product. I have also settled on a name for my company so that I can create other similar products. I'm concerned about the name I have chosen for my company because it turns up on links on some similar  product pages at The parent company for these products in the U.K has a similar company name. What are my trademark rights? We know this beautiful Factory-Reconditioned KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer has nothing to do with your question, but we like looking at it and we hope our use of the product photo is excused by Section 113(c) of the Copyright Act
Right, you had a question. We think you should forget about your choice of company name. We took the two words you want to use, reversed them, and quickly found a substantially similar match for a registered mark by a Delaware company also making kitchen products. That eliminates our having to go into a long (and likely boring) discussion of the territorial rights of British trademark owners.
Name of product vs. name of company. However, that doesn't prevent us from going into a long and boring discussion of trade names, company names and product names. (Okay, okay we'll spare you some of the gruesome details.) If the Dear Rich staff were in your position, we would concentrate primarily on clearing the name that you intend to use for your debut product. (Since you don't seem to have any problems with that choice, you're really doing pretty good!) Next, we would ask ourselves whether the company name will be featured on the product as an identifier that consumers will see. For example, will you use it like KitchenAid or Braun? If so, then you should make sure that it is cleared as well as your product name. If your company name won't be featured on the products and will only be listed as an informational listing -- for example, in the same size font and placement as your company address -- then you would have less concern about trademark rights because you're using it primarily as your company's moniker, not as an identifier to consumers. 
Bottom Line Dept. If you look at the most successful lines of kitchen products, the company trademarks are fairly mundane. Hamilton Beach, Sears, GE, LG, Black & Decker, Sunbeam, Proctor-Silex. In other words, with the exception of George Foreman (and even that one is iffy) company names usually don't add much value to kitchen products. Its usually, the other way around, good products create valuable marks. So, don't be afraid to get mundane yourself, and concentrate on perfecting and marketing your patent-pending product.