P&G to attempt to trade mark acronyms: WTF or NBD?

August 2018

Consumer products group Proctor and Gamble have filed trade mark application for terms such as "LOL" (Laugh Out Loud), "NBD" (No Big Deal) and even WTF (we’ll leave you to Google that one) to presumably be used to market products. It has been reported that the plan is to use the acronyms to market soap, detergents and air fresheners in an attempt to persuade under 35’s to buy such products. The filings were made by P&G in April and are apparently yet to be approved by the USPTO.

Will an attempt to “get down with the kids” actually increase sales? Activist P&G investor Nelson Peltz who joined the P&G board in March stated that younger consumers do not want one size fits all brands but products that they have an emotional attachment to.

The question is, will the USPTO allow P&G to monopolise such well known terms? Trade marks enable consumers to identify products or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises, therefore a mark may be eligible for registration if it performs this essential trade mark function and has distinctive character. It is the job of the relevant trade mark office to decide given evidence from those attempting to register, whether a well-known term can satisfy these criteria and be eligible for registration. Examples from other big brands attempts to file well-known terms include Chanel’s attempt in 2013 to trade mark the word “Jersey”, which was met with refusal from the UKIPO after it was challenged by Jersey Senator Alan Maclean who argued that the public were likely to be led to believe that the products were produced in Jersey. On the other hand, in 2013, celebrity Paris Hilton was able to trade mark the expression “that’s hot” and subsequently brought proceedings against Hallmark for using the mark on greeting cards.

According to Ad Age (the advertising and marketing industry news reporter) the office has requested clarification regarding the application and P&G have until January to respond so we’ll BRB with an update in due course.

This update was prepared by HGF IP Solicitor Liz Cooper.  If you would like further advice on this or any other matter please contact Liz or your usual HGF representative, alternatively visit our Contact Page to get in touch with your nearest HGF office.