One of the strengths of the Kellogg brand over the years has been its menagerie of fetching characters, from Tony the Tiger on Frosted Flakes to Froot Loops’ Toucan Sam. But the flipside of all those attractive pieces of intellectual property is having to defend them from trademark violations.
Kellogg is getting more aggressive in protecting its trademarks by making more filings than any other American company with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – 224 of them last year. It beat out other proactive protectors of well-known brands including Johnson & Johnson, Apple and the NFL.
The company owns nearly 500 trademarks in the U.S. and enforces them in 180 countries, reports Crain’s Michigan Business. It also filed more than 40 applications for new trademarks last year.[more]
With that much going on in the trademark-protection arena, Kellogg’s legal advisers believe, it’s more effective and less costly to stake out your brands’ territory from the git-go than to scramble to try to catch up with violators.
“If you fail to express your trademark rights, you can have them taken,” Lisabeth Coakley, principal with the law firm Harness, Dickey & Pierce, told the publication. “So the way the system is structured, you almost have a duty to pursue the enforcement of those rights. And if you snooze, you lose.”
As Kellogg proliferates trademark filings, it might deter potential violators because Kellogg ‘s brands and marks will turn up more often in searches, for instance, and government attorneys would have more reason to reject competing applications.
But Kellogg is more than willing to go to bat against other big brands over trademark issues. It has chased Sara Lee, for example. And Kellogg has a dispute going with Quaker Oats over Quaker’s proposed use of the “Mother’s” brand name on some granola or cereal food bars, because Kellogg owns a trademark on “Mother’s” cookies and snack foods, Crain’s noted.
So if you’re a trademark lawyer working for Kellogg these days, business is “GRRRRREAT!!”