Friday, May 28, 2010

TRADEMARK WARS: What Can We Learn From a Sandwich?

Don't ask us why, but we love trademarks. We love helping to create them, build and protect them. But every once in a while, someone goes just a little too far. This may be one of those cases: the company that owns the Subway® sandwich chain is trying to register the word "Footlong" as a trademark for sandwiches and restaurant services AND is sending out "cease and desist" letters to other companies that use the term "footlong" for their sandwiches.

This situation raises a whole host of issues, but one of the main ones is that it highlights the serious problems that can arise when someone – in this case SUBWAY® – picks a weak trademark and tries to corner the market with it. But what the news reports don't mention is something even more interesting that we discovered when we combed through the records of the Patent & Trademark Office ("PTO"): about a dozen other food/restaurant franchises like Domino’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC and Dairy Queen have all ganged up on Subway® and filed formal written Oppositions to the Subway® trademark application for “Footlong”. We don’t recall ever seeing such a concerted effort by a dozen large corporations to stop one company from registering a trademark. Although the Subway lawyers were somehow able to convince the PTO to initially allow the trademark application for "Footlong", we aren't putting any money on Subway's ability to ultimately get the trademark registered or stop anyone else from using "Footlong". More to follow as the case unfolds!

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