This Kat has been away from his domestic lair, attending to several personal matters where even his beloved IP became momentarily of minor importance. On his way home he had the opportunity to get caught up in some reading. One article in the 4 December issue of The Economist, in the Schumpeter column ("The Status Seekers: consumers are finding new ways to flaunt their status") particularly caught his eye. Upon reading the piece, once again, he came away wondering how much of branding is professional applied social science, how much is marketing art, and how much is, well let's say, pie-in-the-sky pronouncements.
1. Instead of seeking one's next piece of clothing from a known European fashion house, people search out exotic designs in a Brazilian favela or South African township.
2. A Swedish manufacturer named Bike by Me allows its customers to customize every part of their bicycles.
3. A German fashion house, called Trikoton enables its customers to convert their speech patterns into knitting patterns, thereby enabling the piece of clothing to reflect their respective voice patterns.
4. To snag customers, Tiger Beer provides loyal customers with access to events, while Dunhill promotes a 1930s exotic style (whatever that exactly means within the context of the Great Depression), e.g., eagle-hunting in Mongolia.
5. To enable persons to flaunt the fact that they really care, the Toyota Prius hybrid car makes it clear that is green-friendly, Bed Stu manufactures shoes that appear to have the look of being covered with oil from the Gulf spill, and Mango Radios make a product that is hand-made in an Indonesian village that uses sustainable materials.
6. The Triscuit cracker product of Kraft Foods carried out a promotion whereby it distributed four million packets with basil and dill seeds plus accompanying gardening instructions; a Sheraton hotel in Vietnam has set up a cooking school for its guests, while the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle sponsors a night school for guests at which the latest hit book is discussed.
First, from the trade mark registration vantage, it may be asked whether we should be adding class 41 (or the like) to any application, where the client is already operating, or is considering to operate, such an online site. I would think that we want to make sure there is no possibility that your client's mark can be hijacked for use by a renegade online community.
Second, we need to become more familiar with the manner in which the client's marks are being used within the context of these sites. While there is nothing new with a company sponsoring a platform for the promotion of its products or services, the online community poses a particular challenge. How does one ensure that the site does not result in doing harm to the mark and the brand that it identifies, while at the same time allowing its members the freedom to express themselves and thereby, it is hoped, to create a lasting bond between the person and the brand?