ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

Binh Rey
Binh Rey Binh Rey is the Principal Consultant and founder of Seriously Trademarks, she is passionate about helping people and companies to successfully brand and protect their most important business asset, their name. Binh has worked in senior marketing and sales roles within the IT industry for over 15 years, and thus truly understands the importance of branding products and/or services to gain a competitive edge in the market place. Binh holds a Masters of Business in Marketing from the University of Technology, Sydney and has worked within the trademarking services industry for the last five years. Her trademark success rate for clients is over 90% since establishing Seriously Trademarks. She really enjoys learning and helping people find the right protection for their brand. Seriously Trademarks was established with an ambitious aim of providing honest affordable service with great customer care.

Binh Rey has written 21 article(s) for us.

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Trademarks: Shapes, Colours & Illustrations are So Important!

December 7, 2015 | Binh Rey

There are so many pot holes you can fall into when it comes to designing and developing trademarks for your business.

Let’s look at the issues around shapes, colours and illustrations and when they become important from a trademarking point of view.

There is a rural shop in New Zealand, that sells tyres in a town called Paeroa; a town made famous by L&P Lemon & Paeroa, a famous NZ soft drink that tastes of good lemonish stuff.

L&P soft drink                                     Paeroa, New Zealand
Tyre shop owners, Marie and Eugene Young, decided to rebrand this year. They thought it would be a good idea to give their brand a character, so “Super Tyre Guy” was created in the form of a super hero illustration. The Youngs wanted the brand to represent characteristics such as “strong and positive” to portray their business. What they created and thought was “original” was actually not very original after all, as it caught the eye of DC Comics who owns the trademark rights to their Superman illustrations.

To think of it, yes, Super Tyre Guy looks like Superman in the sense that he has dark hair, a red cape, blue body suit, red belt with matching red boots, has a five sided shape chest shield with one letter within and even the flying posture looks familiar.

You judge it for yourself with the images below (left: Super Tyre Guy, right: Superman):

Super Tyre Guy   Superman character is owned by DC Comics

Despite the fact that the Youngs only own a single tyre shop in a rural township of New Zealand, DC Comics based in Los Angeles wrote to them requesting they cease using branding immediately and demanded they erase all images of Super Tyre Guy from the internet, remove any images of the character from their signage and public marketing materials or else face court where DC Comics could potentially claim costs of lost income and damage to their brand.

It is okay to use an illustration to represent your brand, however don’t try to mimic well-known brands or characters, either internationally or locally recognised.  The world is getting smaller due to the internet and you’re likely to be caught out if you are in breach of a trademark.

To avoid getting sued, the Youngs went back to the drawing board and came up with a NEW Super Tyre Guy, he is now wearing orange overalls, black shoes and punching his fists with his right arm. Here is he below:

Super Tyre Guy

new Super Tyre Guy

Eugene Young was quoted saying, “We have already spent thousands of dollars on rebranding and now we will have to spend hundreds, going into thousands of dollars to change this.  It is a huge expense but at the same time it has to be done and it is something we have to accept. I will just have to change more tyres and sell more mags.  I suppose it is a lesson and a step in our journey into creating our unique identity.”

Many businesses may have unintentionally created a logo, illustration and/or used colours in combination for their business brand and found they were in breach of someone else’s trademark, you can’t claim ignorance as a defence in court!

That’s why it is really important that advertising agencies and graphics designers who are there to help clients create logos and images for a brand, need to talk to a trademark consultant early in the piece to ensure that what they are creating will not be infringing on a registered trademark within the industry their client operates in. 

Feel free to leave a comment below or give me a call – we love brainstorming with new potential clients.

* L&P Lemon & Paeroa is a registered trademark owned by Coca-Cola Amatil (NZ) Limited.

** Super Tyre Guy images, obtain from Super Tyre Guy facebook page.