Unique Trademark Designs Provide the Best Protection

Trademarks pack a powerful punch for millions of brands around the world. Oftentimes, trademarks are seemingly simple designs that evoke strong connotations. They can be a simple letter, such as an “M” representing one of the most famous trademarks in the world, the golden arches of McDonald’s. They can be a simple mark, such as the Nike swoosh. They can be a simple word, such as the made-up word “Google” or a generic word such as “Apple” that translates to one of the biggest technological brands around the globe. While these trademarks are seemingly simple, they spark recognition and association with particular brands that make them potent and valuable. This is why companies sue when trademark designs are too similar.

Some of the most famous brands have had to fight companies that emulated logos as parodies. For instance, The North Face sued the owner of The South Butt apparel because it felt that the parody devalued The North Face brand and could cause confusion. In this case, The South Butt owner designed a logo with similarities to The North Face logo. The North Face logo uses 3 ridges, while The South Butt logo featured upside down ridges. Both used red squares and white lettering. The parties settled and The South Butt dissolved. In another parody case, Starbucks was prepared to battle Dumb Starbucks, which used a nearly identical logo, with the word “Dumb” added to it. However, the shop was a very short-lived venture and was a stunt for a comedian’s project. However, the comedian did not obtain permission from Starbucks to use the logo and likely could have faced a lawsuit.

Adidas has sued several shoe companies for offering designs that too closely resemble the Adidas three-stripe trademark. For instance, Adidas has sued Skechers, Puma, and Ecco over its three stripes. In another footwear case, Converse sued 31 companies in 2014 for selling shoes with similar rubber and black stripes as its Chuck Taylor sneakers.

Countless other trademark infringement cases have occurred over trademarks that too closely match another company’s. One of the most popular companies, Apple, has taken issue with numerous companies for logos that look like an Apple. Some of these companies include Woolworths, GreeNYC, Victoria School of Business and Technology, Poison Apple, and others. In many of these cases, the opponent relented and changed its logo to avoid confrontation with the giant technology company.

However, it may be possible to have the same or similar trademarks within unrelated markets. For instance, the Infiniti moniker represents numerous products such as automobiles, HVAC systems, computer printers, hair supplies, and others. In such cases, the chance of consumer confusion is low or nonexistent. Consumers are not likely to confuse Nissan’s Infiniti trademark for automobiles with Conair’s Infiniti trademark for hair styling tools. It is also possible, but rare, to use the same trademark in the same market. Recently, two universities reached an agreement on the usage of the OSU trademark. Oklahoma State University and The Ohio State University can both use the OSU trademark under specific guidelines. Namely, the colleges can only use the colors of their respective college. Neither can disparage the other with phrases, and neither can use nicknames or mascots of the other in the use of the OSU trademark.

As you can see, trademarks are quite powerful and trademark owners will go to great lengths to protect them. However, it is also valid to have similar trademarks in unrelated markets. Yet, using a unique and new trademark creation may be easier and less likely to be challenged than using a trademark with similar traits to another, even if the markets are unrelated.

Five Reasons to Hire Pellegrino & Associates

Hiring a firm to conduct a particular service can be a daunting task. You want to choose a firm with a good reputation. One that can provide stellar service in a professional manner. One that has experience, skills, and the means to tackle the task at hand, as well as any unforeseen challenges that may arise. For IP valuations, choosing the right firm can seem especially cumbersome as it is still considered a niche market.

At Pellegrino & Associates, we offer a host of services to assist with IP valuations. The following list provides five reasons we are a trusted and reliable firm.

1. Experience. Our firm’s experience positions us among the top firms in a niche market. Our experience involves valuing intellectual property, determining royalty rates, and evaluating businesses, among others. We have performed nearly 400 engagements for more than 200 clients. Clients range from Fortune 100 companies to startups. We also have an international footprint, generating 33% of our business from companies outside of the United States.

2. Credibility. Pellegrino & Associates’ reputation and credibility is among the best in the profession. Judges, attorneys, and government entities have accepted our work product. Courts at the state and federal level, tax jurisdictions, and arbitration panels have accepted our work for issues including bankruptcy valuations, estate tax valuations, property tax valuations, income tax valuations, copyright infringement claims, trade secret misappropriation claims, patent infringement claims, breach of contract claims, and others. In addition, IAM Magazine identified our company president, Mike Pellegrino, as one of 2017’s leading IP strategists in its annual IAM 300 survey.

3. Thought Leader. Our firm’s experience positions us as a thought leader in intangible asset valuation. Our leader, Mike Pellegrino, authored the first and second editions of BVR’s Guide to Intellectual Property Valuation, which has more than 1,000 copies in circulation and reaches a variety of customers including attorneys, tech transfer officers, business valuation firms, competing IP valuation firms, and others. In addition, our finance- and software-related articles appear in internationally and nationally recognized outlets, such as IAM Magazine, Valuation Strategies Magazine, CFO Magazine, MSNBC.com, FoxNews.com, and others. Furthermore, we have had the pleasure of teaching thousands of people about valuations. Various venues around the globe, including law firms, universities, accounting firms, appraisal firms, valuation firms, state bar associations, and other organizations, frequently request our expertise at speaking engagements regarding intangible asset valuations and the tax effects of embedded application software and intellectual property.

4. Standards Setter. We also help set standards in the IP valuation industry. Our president is the chair of the patent valuation standards committee established by the Licensing Executives Society (LES), whose charter is to pursue American National Standards Institute-(ANSI) accepted standards for the valuation of patents in a variety of contexts including financial reporting, capital formation, economic damages calculations, and others. We are also a member of LES’s public policy committee, seeking to help set standards for intellectual property-focused regulatory matters with the SEC and others. We are also involved with the LES’s standards committee for IP use in the boardroom.

5. Pioneer. In addition to our valuation expertise, our president developed a state-of-the-art patent analytics tool that provides key insights and intelligence into the patent landscape. This system removes information asymmetry rampant in the patent marketplace by consolidating millions of disparate records into a user-friendly database.

As you can see, we are actively involved in the IP valuation industry. We set standards, offer loads of experience, develop state-of-the-art tools, and educate others within and outside the industry on the various aspects concerning IP valuations. Call us anytime or check us out to learn more via our website at www.pellegrinoandassociates.com. We are always happy to assist our clients

Companies Rebrand to Stay Competitive

When it comes to company value, a company’s brand can provide a host of positive aspects. A brand provides recognition, trust, reliability, consistency, and value. In some cases, as mentioned in our article “Four Ways IP Provides Value During Bankruptcy,” a brand can help a company survive a financial crisis. Some of the most famous brands in the world include McDonald’s, CVS, Apple, and General Motors. Over the years, these specific companies have had to adjust their brands in order to keep up with consumer taste changes.

Sometimes, the only alternative a company has during times of change is to try to rebrand. However, rebranding is risky. It is extremely costly as it may involve changing logos, revamping advertising methods, introducing new products, and attracting new customers as well as retaining loyal customers. For big name companies that are famous around the world, such as McDonald’s, Target, Apple, and Harley-Davidson, they have to be cautious about changing products or images that landed them a huge customer base. While consumer tastes may change, many consumers also like the tried and true.

The key for many of these companies is to retain some of the tried and true, but also introduce new products, services, or other offerings that draw new consumers in the hopes of gaining a large, loyal customer base. For CVS, it was a simple name change from CVS Caremark to CVS Health and the removal of tobacco products from its inventory. In this case, the company decided to stick to the concept of its new name, despite going against the grain. So far, the change has done no harm to the company since it rebranded in 2014. Since then, the company’s revenues grew from $139 billion to $176 billion in 2016.

While rebranding can be risky, it can also be the perfect transformation to help companies stay competitive and even come out as leaders. All of the companies mentioned in this article have proven that it is doable. In some cases, it is a matter of adding product, while other cases it can be making a statement and sticking to it.

Four Ways IP Provides Value During Bankruptcy

On occasion, companies face financial difficulties and have to file bankruptcy. Even some of the largest and most popular companies run into issues. While bankruptcy signifies the end of some companies, it is not always the case, especially for companies with strong intellectual property (IP) portfolios. For those companies, IP may still hold value in the event of financial difficulty. In fact, the IP may be the saving grace. Click Read More to discover four ways IP still retains value during bankruptcy.

1. Brands and trademarks provide recognition. Although a company may face financial challenges, if a strong brand exists, a company may have a better chance of surviving than a company that does not have a strong brand. Loyal consumers are likely to overlook a bankruptcy. Additionally, if a company provides products that are uniquely different than others on the market, it may overcome financial difficulties. Take General Motors (GM) for instance. GM filed bankruptcy in 2009, but has experienced climbing revenue since then. In fact, since it filed bankruptcy, GM experienced its largest revenue earnings last year at $166 billion.

2. Companies with strong IP have a better chance of recovering or selling. A strong brand or large IP portfolio may make it more appealing for other companies to invest in a bankrupt company. For instance, the Hostess brand was bought for the second time in 2016 since it filed bankruptcy in 2012. The new owner considers the brand “iconic” and worth the investment.

3. Patents and other IP still hold value. Patents protect inventions. In some cases, those inventions may still be valid, thus, valuable at the time of bankruptcy. For instance, telecom giant Nortel filed bankruptcy in 2009. However, its IP portfolio proved extremely valuable as a host of big name companies expressed interest in buying the IP. In the end, a consortium formed consisting of Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and RIM that bought the IP for $4.5 billion.

4. Intangible assets provide more opportunities than tangible assets. Intellectual property offers various ways to create value. For instance, with IP, an owner can license, sell, form a joint venture, or use other methods of generating revenue with IP.

As indicated, companies that own IP at the time of bankruptcy may have a better outcome than companies that do not own IP. IP provides great value in many ways, thus providing more opportunities for survival. However, many companies that file for bankruptcy are mistakenly tagged as worthless. This is why it is important to seek an IP valuation to determine the worth of IP assets.

McDonald’s Changes With the Times to Maintain Value

Founded in 1940, McDonald’s is one of the most recognized brands in the world. Serving approximately 69 million people daily in over 100 countries from more than 36,000 restaurants, McDonald’s is one of the leading fast-food establishments. Like most fast-food places, McDonald’s has had to find new ways to keep up with competition in order to remain a leading brand. As a result, the company has had to make big changes throughout the years. For many companies, this is not unusual. Consumer tastes change, and in order for companies to maintain top status, they have to meet consumer expectations.

In the earlier 1960s, McDonald’s introduced its Ronald McDonald character, a clown complete with its own fantasy world, McDonaldland. Other characters included the Hamburglar, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird, and the Fry Kids. As a result, the franchise seemed most focused on catering to children. This focus continued for decades as years later in 1979, it introduced the Happy Meal. The Happy Meal gave kids the option of either a hamburger or cheeseburger, French fries, cookies, a soft drink, and a toy. Through the years, other alternatives became available such as chicken nuggets, milk, apples, and yogurt. While the Happy Meal remains a staple for the franchise, it has had to make other improvements to attract more of an adult clientele.

Over time, the franchise has phased out Ronald McDonald, making him more of a charity figure visiting hospitals and attending fundraisers and other events. Gone are the bright yellow and red plastic booths, replaced by more modern seating lines. Today, most McDonald’s restaurants have undergone complete redesigns with more of a business appeal, offering outlets for cell phones and laptops, softer lighting, and free Wi-Fi. With these changes, McDonald’s hopes to attract consumers willing to use the restaurants for business purposes such as conducting work or meetings.

Along with the redesign, McDonald’s has made many changes to its menu over the years. As companies such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts experienced high sales for their gourmet coffee, McDonald’s introduced its McCafe line, which includes items such as iced coffee, hot chocolate, and lattes to keep up with the competition and get its customers to associate it as a meeting place.

Also, McDonald’s has experienced high pressure to introduce healthier options as the global population seeks better eating habits and competition offers fresher ingredients and lower fat alternatives. Therefore, McDonald’s consistently changes its menu to keep up with the latest trends. It offers more salads, grilled chicken, fruit, yogurt, and other healthy alternatives than it ever did before. It also promised to phase out chicken raised with antibiotics and milk containing artificial growth hormones. Each year, it seems McDonald’s tries to add more healthy options.

While healthy options are important to the general public, unique food options in general still draw consumers. This is why McDonald’s experiments with new items all the time, even if they are not the healthiest. They’ve tried introducing mozzarella sticks, several versions of the Big Mac, McRib sandwiches, and even kale at certain locations. While some of its new items remain, they don’t always work. However, it is likely McDonald’s will consistently try new things each year in the hopes of keeping faithful customers happy and attract new customers.

According to Statista, McDonald’s ranks number one for the most valuable fast food brand in the world at an estimated brand value of $88.65 billion. Therefore, with all of its constant changes, McDonald’s must be doing something right!

Five Ways Trademarks Provide Value

Trademarks are some of the most recognizable and valuable intellectual property assets in the world. In fact, trademarks surround us daily. Some of the most popular include Starbucks, UPS, Coca-Cola, Toyota, AT&T, Google, and many more. As you see, trademarks touch nearly all aspects of our lives. How we search online. What we drink. The type of phone service we use. The kind of car we drive. And so much more. Without these trademarks, companies and their products would all blend together, making it difficult to determine which products to buy as consumers. But what really makes trademarks so valuable?

1. Recognition. Trademarks help consumers recognize companies and their products. For instance, much of the population around the world recognizes the golden arches that signify a McDonald’s restaurant. Without the golden arches trademark, McDonald’s would not stand apart from other burger joints. Such recognition cuts down on marketing costs as consumers are more likely to purchase from a trademark or brand they are familiar with.

2. Protection. Trademarks provide explicit protections for brands, slogans, logos, and other similar items. This means that other companies cannot mirror or use these trademarks without paying a penalty. There are no statutory limitations for the life of trademarks, as there are for other types of intellectual property such as patents and copyrights.

3. Positive cash flows. As mentioned earlier, trademarks provide recognition. In turn, this gives companies the ability to reap more benefits as consumers are likely to buy products of recognized brands over generic options or those that are not as well recognized. For instance, consumers are more likely to buy a particular brand of cereal over a generic version, even if the ingredients and tastes are similar.

4. Communication. Trademarks are a great way to communicate to the public. Companies that market well using their trademarks gain the most recognition. For instance, Apple has done a remarkable job of marketing. If it had not marketed its products as well as it has, consumers would not be able to differentiate the technology company versus the fruit. It has done so well that a search online will bring up the technology company before it will the fruit. In the scheme of things, the word “apple” doesn’t naturally conjure up images of technology. The natural image would be the fruit. However, the technology company has done such a superb job of associating its name with its technological products that many people today automatically associate the word with the company and its products.

5. Versatility. Trademarks come in many forms. They can be slogans, logos, business names, phrases, symbols, designs, or images. Even some sounds are trademarked. Therefore, a company can utilize a variety of trademarks to gain traction in the market.

As you can see, trademarks provide many ways that companies can bring value to the market. So much so that the market has valued many brands at literally tens of billions of dollars. Icons such as Coca-Cola, Marlboro, or Nike’s swoosh all represent brands that command a market premium, despite seemingly nonexistent or minimal functional differences among nonbranded products.

Tom Brady’s Super Bowl Win Increases Value

Whether you love to hate him or you are one of his biggest fans, New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady is one of NFL’s biggest superstars. At the ripe age of 39, his latest Super Bowl win makes him even more valuable. Brady’s performance earned him his fourth Super Bowl MVP award. In the span of his 17-year career, he has become the winningest quarterback of all time with the most game wins and five Super Bowl victories. It is also telling that the only Super Bowl wins for the Patriots have been with Tom Brady as quarterback.

As the winningest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady still falls behind in stats compared to other quarterbacks in regular season. However, he is close in many categories. Given that he recently announced that he doesn’t plan to retire until his mid-40s, he is likely to set more records. This gives him ample opportunity to go down in history as the greatest, undisputed quarterback to play the game.

Brady’s amazing comeback in Super Bowl LI is likely to increase demand for Patriots tickets in 2017 as fans are anxious to watch him play more. In 2016, Forbes listed the Patriots as the second most valuable team after the Cowboys. The Super Bowl LI win and the desire to see what’s next for the quarterback superstar may help the team slip to the number one spot in 2017.

In the sports world, winning is everything. Those who show exemplary talent and consistent wins are offered many opportunities on and off the field. As such, Brady’s fifth Super Bowl win puts him in high demand. While he has already made millions in endorsements for such companies as Under Armour, Ugg Boots, Sirius, Visa, Nike, and others, he is likely to receive more opportunities for endorsements. Shortly after his win, he was also approached to be the subject of a book and film.

While his career has been riddled with negative publicity including the deflated football debacle, his talents continue to rise above these incidents. He is a man who seems to have it all, including a supermodel wife, a net worth of $180 million, endorsements, and a hot career. At this rate, when he does decide to retire, he may likely fall into the footsteps of other former greats including Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. They’ve continued to enjoy endorsement opportunities and have even made guest appearances on television and in movies. It will be interesting to see what opportunities come Brady’s way. In the meantime, he will likely continue to break records and build on his legacy in the sport.

Five Tactics Lady Gaga Used at Super Bowl LI to Increase Marketability

Celebrities become famous for exceptional talent, which may include singing, acting, dancing, and others. However, keeping their value entails more than just showcasing a talent. They must also heavily market themselves. For instance, while it may take months or even years to make a movie, the movie only lasts a couple of hours. In order to maintain their value in the meantime, celebrities often use endorsements to keep their presence in the eyes of the public. They may also tease the public with their next project. In the end, it takes a lot of effort for celebrities to continue proving they are valuable to the industry and spark interest in the public.

Finding various ways to promote themselves is almost another form of talent for celebrities. The more creative they get, the more noticeable they become. Take Lady Gaga for instance. She recently performed at the Super Bowl for basically free. However, she enhanced her value with this performance in the following five ways:

1. Performed for free. While Lady Gaga didn’t make money from her Super Bowl performance, she gained incredible publicity without having to share the stage with any other performer. The Super Bowl is thought to be one of the biggest forms of promotion in the United States as it receives more than 100 million viewers. For Gaga, it paid off well as sales surged 1,000% right after her performance!

2. Kept it clean. While Lady Gaga is known for her eccentricities, she was able to wow the audience without the shock value. For instance, there were no wardrobe malfunctions, gyrating, or other inappropriate gestures. She kept her performance appropriate for a wide and very public audience. This enhances her likeability and keeps the focus on her talent.

3. Avoided political commentary. Election years and the swearing in of a new president create a host of opinions worldwide. Many times celebrities use the limelight to publicly announce their political views. This can create negative publicity and lose the respect of fans who do not hold the same views.

4. Entertained. Lady Gaga kept the audience captivated by performing acrobatics, dancing routines, singing new and popular songs, and playing instruments. Her livelihood is as an entertainer and her ability to entertain on many different levels works in her favor.

5. Announced her tour. A few hours after her halftime performance, Lady Gaga strategically announced a worldwide tour. It was the perfect opportunity to make such a big announcement after a well-received performance in front of millions of viewers.

Maintaining a positive image in the eyes of the public is paramount for success to any celebrity. With Lady Gaga’s surge in sales and announcement of a worldwide tour, it appears her marketing tactics proved successful.

Ryan Lochte’s Path to Value Redemption

Ryan Lochte is one of America’s most decorated male competitive swimmers. His accolades are plentiful with 12 Olympic medals, including six gold, three silver, and three bronze. He is the world record holder in the 200-meter individual medley, and was named American Swimmer of the Year and World Swimmer of the Year twice by Swimming World Magazine. In total, Lochte has won 70 medals in major international competitions, with 45 of them gold. In addition to his swimming abilities, Lochte’s is known for his good looks and lively personality, gaining him publicity through magazine covers and television appearances. He has appeared on the cover of Vogue and was named in People Magazine on the “Sexist Man Alive” list. He made appearances on 30 Rock and Beverly Hills 90210, and starred in his reality TV show, What Would Ryan Lochte Do?

Today, Lochte’s net worth is reportedly $6 million. While this is no small amount, it could possibly be much higher had he not been involved in a scandal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. During the Olympic games, Lochte and others reported a robbery, later confessing that it was a fabricated story. Lochte’s actions cost him millions in endorsements with companies such as Speedo and Ralph Lauren immediately ending deals with him. Ending deals with a celebrity who faces bad publicity over a misdeed is a common reaction. Companies choose celebrities who are perceived positively by their target audiences because the companies want to associate their products with someone liked and admired. If these companies continue to use celebrities who have negative or undesirable publicity, it may appear to the public that these companies condone the actions of those celebrities. Therefore, they could lose consumer trust. As brand image is all about perception, companies do not like the risks that bad publicity can generate.

While most people make poor decisions at one time or another, celebrities are held to higher standards because they are public figures. Therefore, their poor decisions could turn into big financial and monetary losses. Other athletes who lost endorsement deals because of behavioral actions include Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, and Kobe Bryant. Over time, these athletes were able to rehabilitate their image and companies began to work with them again. These athletes continued to prove their valuable skills by winning more awards and making records in their respective sport. They were also able to convince the public that they regretted their actions, and they continue to prove this by staying on their best behavior. However, their misdeeds will always follow them, making it even more work for them to convince the public that they are changed people.

Fortunately for Ryan Lochte, he has been given new opportunities since the scandal. One such break was becoming a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. This kept him in the public eye in a big way as millions of people watch the show. But perhaps the biggest break is that several companies have been willing to endorse him, despite the scandal. These companies have made Lochte a poster boy for starting anew with such campaign slogans as “Clean Start” with PowerBar, “Just Let Me Work” with swim apparel company TYR, and “When Life Happens” with Debt.com. The CEO of cough drop company Pine Bros. specifically stated that everyone makes mistakes and wanted to give Lochte a second chance, capitalizing on the company’s “forgiving” message. Fortunately for Lochte, these breaks came relatively fast after the scandal. With luck, good behavior, and continued success in his sport, Lochte may be on the path for redeeming his value in the public eye.

Athletes Capitalize on Likeness

In the sports world, many athletes become famous for their skills. Those who perform the best and win the most games receive more notoriety. Fans become attached to these players and want to see them often. These players even draw new fans as they become more famous and continue to play well. However, athletes are generally not in a sport for a lifetime. Due to age, injury, and loss of skills over time, they eventually have to retire. Retirement generally comes earlier for athletes than for professionals from other careers. Therefore, it makes sense for athletes who have become famous for their catchphrases, names, and skills to seek trademarks so others do not capitalize on something they’ve earned themselves.

Some famous athlete trademarks include the following: Tim Tebow’s “Tebowing,” LeBron James’ “King James,” Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode,” Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong,” Jeremy Lin’s “Linsanity,” and many others. As noted, athletes can trademark catchphrases, names of particular poses, nicknames, and more. Some may use their name in original ways (e.g., Lance Armstrong for Livestrong charity that raises money for cancer). If the athletes don’t trademark these things themselves, then fans and companies may capitalize on them. There have many cases where a fan uses a catchphrase associated with an athlete and tries to sell t-shirts or other products with that catchphrase.

With trademarks, these athletes may be able to negotiate sponsorships, gain revenue, and/or raise awareness for something (such as Armstrong’s cancer charity). By trademarking their names, they can make their brand outlive their actual sports career. For instance, Michael Jordan is still keeping his brand strong years after he retired from basketball. In fact, he recently won a case for the rights to his Chinese name. Furthermore, by applying for trademarks, these athletes can prevent others from misusing their names or leading people to believe they endorse something that they don’t. They can also prevent others from generating revenue based on their likeness.

Athletes who move to trademark their names, likeness, and catchphrases early in the process have more control over the use of these trademarks. Some athletes even start the filing process while still in college. Although they cannot capitalize on those trademarks while still in college, they can prevent others from capitalizing on their likeness. Two such athletes include Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, both rookies for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. Both athletes applied for trademarks while still in college, which has proven to be a smart move. Prescott and Elliott have both had an extremely successful first year in the pros, earning their way into the playoffs. As a result, their catchphrases and nicknames have been displayed and used abundantly by their fans. With such a successful start, they are likely to land more sponsorships and sell more products associated with their trademarks. Since they already applied for trademarks, they can prevent others from exploiting their names and already have a head start on negotiating deals for sponsorships and products. It’s an overall smart strategy. It gives them more recognition both on and off the field, and provides them protection as well as other revenue avenues down the road.