What Are Famous Trademarks?

Famous trademarks have been the highlight for all inventors who want to protect their mark. While most countries recognize famous trademarks, there can be confusion and, at times, disagreement, on what constitutes a famous trademark versus a well-known mark.

One important thing to note is that with the advent of internet promotion and advertising, trademarks often exceed the typical sales territory of the trademark's owner. When a specific trademark is famous in one country, it can also become well-known in other countries. When this occurs, it can create legal issues for the trademark owner.

Common Issues With Famous Trademarks

  • It is hard to differentiate popular trademarks with famous trademarks.
  • While the trademark may, in fact, be popular, it may not be considered famous. But what constitutes famous? That is an ongoing issue for people to figure out.
  • If a mark is protected in one country and is famous in several countries, then there exists an issue of whether or not someone in another country should know or has reason to know that the mark is already being used.
  • Famous trademarks are more prone to piracy, which then forces owners to deal with court actions and other means to protect their famous mark in jurisdictions where the invention/products have no presence or actual protection.
  • Another issue that famous trademarks face is prior issued third-party registrations that block the use of the famous trademark in that particular jurisdiction.
  • Common-law jurisdictions look at the priority of use when determining which party has rights over the use of a mark. However, this can become an issue for famous marks when those marks are protected by common law prior to the mark being registered and subsequently becoming famous.

What Are the Famous Federal Trademark Factors?

A mark is considered famous under the Lanham Act if it is considered to be widely recognized in the U.S. by the general public as a mark by a certain company or designer. There are many factors a court will take into consideration to determine whether or not a specific mark has the degree of recognition to make it famous. Some of these factors include:

  • The duration that the mark has been recognized.
  • The extent and geographic reach of the publicity of the mark.
  • The volume and reach of the sales of the products offered bearing the mark.
  • The extent of the public's recognition of the mark.
  • Whether the mark was registered either under the Act of March 3, 1881, or the Act of February 20, 1905.

Some of the most widely recognized and famous trademarks include:

  • Google
  • Walmart
  • Vodafone
  • Rolex
  • Clorox
  • Kodak
  • Exxon
  • Victoria Secret

Differences Between Trademarks

While some courts may use the terms "well-known" and "famous trademarks" interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. The standards for achieving a famous trademark are much higher than achieving a well-known trademark.

Since the definition of well-known means that it is widely known by many, to achieve "well-known" status, the trademark will need to be known to a substantial segment of the relevant public. In contrast, a famous mark is considered a mark that is well-known and has a high degree of reputation associated with it.

In the European Union, a trademark is considered well-known if it has extensive use and advertising in a market. The mark will still maintain its character even if the market becomes diffused.

Protection for Famous Trademarks

Some examples of famous trademarks include Apple, McDonald's, Adidas, and other famous names. These trademarks are better protected because of their popularity.

According to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the following marks are famous: Google is famous for its search engine; Kohler is famous for its plumbing fixtures; Gatorade is famous for its energy and fruit drinks; and Theraflu is famous for its cold remedies.

Specifically, according to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a mark achieves its fame if it is distinct, has significant advertising and marketing investments, and is a product of lasting value. Such marks are famous to the general public because the name or symbol is familiar to the public, regardless of whether or not certain people purchase that product.

Companies can benefit greatly from a famous trademark since consumers often rely on symbols to identify the quality they are looking for in a product or service. In order to become famous, companies must actually submit proof and evidence of how and why the trademark should be famous. Some of the elements and factors that are taken into consideration include:

  • Volume of sales.
  • Advertising expenditures.
  • Duration of the mark.
  • Any licensing agreements.
  • Lack of third-party use of that particular mark.

Dilution Causes of Action

  • Dilution by blurring. This can be a case brought against the famous trademark due to the association between one mark and another famous trademark that may be similar. In this case, the argument is that the famous trademark is impaired because it is not distinct and unique. Therefore, it doesn't meet the elements or factors that are required for a trademark to be famous.
  • Dilution by tarnishment. This is a case brought against the famous trademark holder for the use of a famous trademark for goods or services of poor quality.
  • Dilution can also occur if the two companies are not competitors. So, even if there is no likelihood of confusion due to the fact that the businesses operate in unique industries, a dilution cause of action can be brought.

The 10 Most Valuable Trademarks

  • Google's search engine is valued at $44.3 billion with a mark capitalization of approximately $164 billion.
  • Microsoft has a trademark value of 42.8 billion, which includes video game consoles, electronics, and digital services. It has a market cap of $184 billion.
  • Walmart's trademark is valued at $36.2 billion with a market cap of $184 billion.
  • IBM has more patents than any other technology company. It has a trademark value of $36.2 billion and a market cap of $199 billion.
  • Vodafone has over 340 million customers throughout 20 countries. It has a trademark value of $30.7 billion and market cap of $138 billion.
  • Bank of America's trademark value is $30.6 billion with a market cap of $109 billion.
  • General Electric's trademark value is $30.5 billion with a market cap of $197 billion.
  • Apple's trademark value is $29.5 billion with a market cap of $307 billion.
  • Wells Fargo has a trademark value of $28.9 billion and a market cap of $143 billion.
  • AT&T is the largest telephone services provider in the U.S. for both local and long-distance services. It has roughly 95 million customers. This company's trademark value is $28.9 billion with a market cap of $182 billion.

If you need help with learning more about famous trademarks, and how you can obtain the famous trademark status, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.