Friday, May 1, 2009

The Problems With Branding Using Geographic Terms

The City of Hollister, California is quasi-famous for being the place that inspired one of Marlon Brando's most iconic movie performances in the 1953's "The Wild One". But now it's embroiled in a legal battle with clothing manufacturer Abercrombie & Fitch because A&F started a clothing line called Hollister Co. about 10 years ago and is now trying to stop anyone anyone who uses "Hollister" for clothing - including people and businesses in Hollister, CA. This article describes the dispute in more detail.

Why is this important? Because geographic terms are very difficult - and sometimes impossible - to protect as a trademark. But that doesn't stop people from trying. We typically advise our clients to stay away from using geographic terms as trademarks for this exact reason. Meanwhile, as the dispute between Abercrombie & Fitch and the citizens of Hollister continues, it reminds us of the famous exchange between Brando and another character in the film when Brando's Johnny is asked: "What are you rebelling against?". Johnny's response: "Whadaya got?".

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