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Missing the Mark

Posted by: Jerome McDonnell on September 24, 2012

As reported on brandchannel.com, Yahoo! recently decided to remove the trademark registration symbol [®] from its logo, discarding something that has been a part of its brand identity since 1995. Apparently a new employee was “bugged” by the symbol, so CEO Marissa Mayer allowed them to go on a spree removing the offending item from the website and company campus. Mayer even posted an image of one of the forsaken “R’s” on Instagram.

 Trademark Registration Symbol

While use of the trademark symbol ™, (SM) or ® is not mandatory (as Mayer later tweeted, “Legal assures us that our trademark is implied and quite secure”) it does serve a purpose: not only does “marking” provide notice of ownership rights (or claim to ownership of the trademark) and help reinforce the public’s association of the mark with its owner, it also may allow the owner to assert certain types of damages in lawsuits against infringers. In the US, failure to use a registration notice [®] limits the remedies available to the owner in a lawsuit and may prevent a plaintiff from recovering damages and profits in a suit for infringement if the defendant is not shown to have actual notice of the registration.

In this writer’s humble opinion, the ® isn’t just a symbol for Registered trademark, it’s a mark of Respect. Knowing the time, money and effort that generally goes into securing trademark registration, why shouldn’t ® be proudly proclaimed? The legal rights that are acquired through registration are significant and deserve acknowledgement, as indicated in the form of the “R” symbol. Why graduate with a Ph.D. if you’re only going to list high school on your resume?

Rather than be seen as a hindrance to design aesthetic, the ® symbol can be regarded as a beauty mark or a badge of honor, to be displayed with pride. While typically placed to the upper or lower right of the mark, credit goes to brands that embrace the symbol in creative ways –

• note how American Express puts it to the left of its logo:

American Express

• As does LEVI’S -- while also incorporating the ® as part of the overall design:

LEVI'S

• Broadcaster HBO at times uses the ® faintly:

HBO

• While the 20th Century Fox logo places it to almost 3-D effect:

20th Century Fox

• Meanwhile Intel (never one to shy away from trademark marking incorporated the ® symbol into the holding shape for “Intel Inside”:

Intel Inside

Let's acknowledge brand logos that blatantly alert consumers to the fact that they are trademarks… or trade marks, if you will:

Metro Goldwyn Mayer:

MGM

Guinness:

Guinness

Heineken:

Heineken

Your trademark is your brand’s most valuable asset, and registration is earned through no small investment. It’s your property — and you should alert others to this fact. Like your favorite outfit or item of clothing, the trademark notice is not something that needs to be worn everyday — (typical guidelines recommend applying it at least once, in the first or most prominent use of the trademark) — but it sure does make you feel good when you have it on.

One can’t help but wonder if Yahoo!’s clean-up efforts could perhaps have been put to better use, and TechCrunch, for example, speculates if the exclamation point is the next thing to go. Considering what removal of it did for Google, maybe Yahoo! was focusing on the wrong symbol all along.

Jerome McDonnell is Group Trademark Director for Interbrand.




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