Taglines and Trademarks: First in Time Gets First in Tag (Line)

Everyone knows a tagline or two-Nike’s “Just Do it”; McDonald’s “I’m Loving It”; Cotton’s “The Fabric of Our Lives”; the list goes on and on. These taglines are essentially a branding slogan used to market or advertise a given good or service. The purpose of a tagline – and a good tagline will achieve this purpose – is to create a phrase that will help consumers remember your product. Some taglines even speak to the nature of their product: if you are going to Burger King, you are going to remember that you can have it your way; if you choose Allstate as your insurance company, you are going to remember that you are “in good hands.”

But how does one keep from having their tagline stolen from underneath them? The answer is not novel, nor it is necessarily difficult, if you are the first to “coin” this term, you trademark it. Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), trademarks protect words and symbols that distinguish products or services from those of other sellers or manufacturers and indicate the source of the product or service. Essentially what this means is that your tagline must be very specific to your company; it cannot be so general as to encompass many goods or products. This is because if the tagline is given trademark protection, other companies are foreclosed from using such phrases in their taglines.

The steps to obtain trademark protection are simple, but very particular. First, one who seeks to have their tagline trademarked must make certain that their idea does not conflict with an existing slogan that has been trademarked. There is a free device on the USPTO website called the “Trademark Electronic Search System” that can be used to conduct this search. Next, you must write a description of your tagline linking it to your good or service. It must be specific enough to set your tagline apart from others-be sure to include your slogan in standard size as you are not allowed to trademark any specific color, font, font size, or design for your tagline. Third, you file this application with the USPTO. You will receive a number to use as your receipt. Then, you wait to receive a response to your application from USPTO.

Bottom Line: Make sure you are first in time; you are not in any way conflicting with taglines that have already been trademarked; and your application is as specific as possible by laying out your service and your trademark. Peter Klose and his associates spend hours each week reviewing names, tag lines, and new names trying to assess the novelty and success of any given name, mark, trademark or tag line.

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