The failure to protect valuable brand names can lead to loss of competitive advantage. Since most companies intangible assets are valued greater than their physical assets and inventory, the importance of trademark protection is becoming more apparent to corporate leaders.
Case in point? The highly competitive beverage industry.
As reported by the good folks at Bloomberg BNA, established beverage conglomerates have been increasingly opposing the trademark applications of micro-brewers and smaller beverage companies in an effort to quell competition and defend their brands against alleged trademark dilution and confusion. Recent beverage trademark opposition filings in the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board include the following:
- Anheuser-Busch’s opposition against the U.S. application for NATTY GREEN’S owned by the North Carolina micro-brewery Natty Greene’s LLC (this case was discussed by us in a recent beverage trademarks discussion on this blog);
- Diageo North America’s opposition against the U.S. application for the mark ROYAL filed by Sutter Home Wineries of Canada;
- An extension of time filed by Coca-Cola to file an opposition against the dairy mark LACTOZERO owned by Cream-O-Land Dairies, based on Coca-Cola’s ownership of numerous “zero” marks for beverages; and
- Pepsi-Co Inc.’s trademark opposition against the trademark ENERGY PEP by Nutritional Science Solutions, Ltd.
The policing of trademark applications by large companies is part of an essential intellectual property brand enforcement regimen. While in the past many policing efforts were done by outside trademark counsel, companies are increasingly turning to their in-house intellectual property departments for trademark watching, cease and desist letters, and requests for extensions of time to file trademark oppositions. For those cases that do not settle short of litigation, outside trademark law firms that specialize in trademark opposition cases are often utilized.
Trademark Owner Tip: Be sure to have a trademark watching service and intellectual property protection plan in place to avoid loss of valuable trademark rights and/or having to defend against claims of trademark infringement by third-parties.