Keep Your Finger To Yourself

We have something from the trademark world this morning. There is a group within the US Patent Office called the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. They’re the folks who figure out if some piece of intellectual property – a name, a slogan, a design – is protectable by a trademark (I’ll pause here whilst all the lawyers out there rush to correct me).
Recently they refused to approve a bottle design on the basis that it was “scandalous,” which is pretty rare. I think they got it wrong and here’s why.

The bottle in question was designed to look like a hand giving the finger.  Yes, THAT finger:

The Finger Bottle

The geniuses at Luxuria, who have registered other trademarks that seem to be on no products, submitted this.  They went through the time and legal expense to get this before the board in order to be able to license the bottle to beer companies, and to hold mineral waters, and other non-alcoholic drinks.  Why I think the board got it wrong is this: it’s not “scandalous”; it’s stupid.

In their application, Luxuria stated that these bottles “are planned to be placed in shops, supermarkets, and similar venues where consumers will purchase the goods for consumption.”  So if you could find someone dumb enough to license this idiocy in which to package their beverage, you’d further have to find retailers who believe their clientele wouldn’t be offended.  Can’t imagine that anyone would have a problem there.

I’m not offended by this but I know there will lots of folks who will be, and if I’m selling a product the last thing I want is to risk offending a substantial portion of the population.  Not only is there that chance in this case but the bottle seems to have been designed exactly to do that.  I guess if you were selling bottles directly over the web and didn’t care, it’s one thing.  If your business plan requires licensees and distributors, it’s quite another.

Luxuria is lucky that the board denied their application, even it’s for the wrong reason.  It saves them a lot of other expense.  Maybe they can use the money to hire a smart executive who can help them understand that they can’t give the finger to everyone.

You with me on this?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks

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