Trade marks have often been viewed more ambivalently than the other traditional categories of IP rights. This Kat's recollection is that, prior to the enactment of the earliest trade mark legislation in England in 1875, there was spirited Parliamentary debate about the desirability of granting exclusive rights to commercial signs. More recently, in connection with the enactment of the Lanham Act in 1946, the U.S. Department of Justice was critical of expanding and strengthening trade mark rights, seeing marks as often serving no more than a cynical means to create the illusion of product diferentiation among gullible consumers. As for Naomi Klein and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, here, the thrust of her polemic is well captured in the book's title.
Whatever one's ultimate view about these challenges to the desirability of trade mark protection, one has to marvel about the way that certain marks have enabled their owner successfully to create multiple products. A case in point is the recent item that appeared in the 3 October issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. Under the caption, "The brand that launched a thousand ships", the garishly-laid out one page of text and colour pays homage to the creator of that gastronomic icon, Doritos chips.
And so we are told: "When Arch West, the creator of Doritos, died on September 20 at age 97, he left behind a shape-shifting snack behemoth. In the 47 years ago since Frito-Lay introduced Doritos, they have become of the world's most popular snacks, with global sales of nearly $5 billion last year and the current U.S. roster of 22 flavours, plus dozen more in foreign markets and many that have come and gone." The article goes on to mention several of these 22 tantalising flavours: Cool Ranch, Spicy Sweet, Mr. Dragon's Fire Chips, Nacho Cheese, Collisions Pizza Cravers & Ranch, Toasted Corn, Gold Peking Duck and Taco Flavour. Now all we need is a Doritos Catnip product to satisfy the palate of the most trade mark-sensitive feline.
A trade mark purist might note that these various Dorito-branded varieties are actually a combination of the basic product name with a name which is either descriptive ("Toasted Corn") or more distinctive ("Cool Ranch"). The common denominator for all Dorito chips is the shape and texture of the chips; each sub-mark then identifies a different flavour. Ultimately, though, what Frito-Lay has done is to leverage the goodwill in the Doritos brand across a large number of distinctly identified product offerings.
Tis Kat wonders how Doritos' "success" in creating such multiple product offerings measures up against other multiple sub-products under a single unifying mark. Growing up, Heinz used to boast that it offered "57 Varieties" but, try as he might, this Kat never could identify more than a handful of varieties under the Heinz name. And so to my question: are any readers familiar with a consumer brand that has spawned more distinct products under a single name than has Doritos? The winner, if anyone can top the number of Doritos-based marks, gets a free bag of Doritos snacks from this Kat (he or she gets to name the variety).