Yesterday the IPKat attended the CIPIL/Emmanuel College Cambridge Trade Marks Workshop. The event was interdisciplinary and included papers drawn from linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, history, economics, marketing, sociology, geography and of course law.
There were too many intellectual goodies to give a detailed overview, but highlights included:
*Jenny Thomas on inevitable/natural linguistic practices which lead to changes in the meaning of words;
*James Leach on Melenisian naming practices, and the possibility of drawing parallels with trade mark law;
*Lionel Bentley’s identification of personality theory as one of the early bases for registered trade mark law (because of the right to use one’s own name in trade);
*Andrew Griffith’s contention that trade marks are in some ways more similar to tangible than intangible property because they are rivalrous;
*Tim Ambler’s analogy of brands as boats and trade marks as their anchors;
*Alan Durant’s contention that descriptiveness is understood differently under registrability and defences to infringement.
The IPKat is still pondering the ramifications. One thing that he thought the day highlighted through was that those speaking about branding and those speaking about trade marks were actually speaking at crossed purposes. The brand values and forms of brand equity identified were undoubtedly commercially important but were expressed at such a high level of abstraction (one example was ‘LYNX makes you attractive) that they idea of granting them legal protection would be incredibly worrying for competitors. Trade marks may though have a role to play in protecting very specific embodiments of brand values (to use everyone’s favourite example, the O2 case, it may be possible to protect a specific picture of a bubble for specific services, but it would be anticompetitive to protect a feeling of airiness and space or even the idea of bubbles).