Friday, January 12

Branding Term Primer: iPhone


According to BusinessWeek, Cisco Systems Inc.'s global brand value tops $17,532 million whereas Apple Inc.'s global brand value is $9,130 million. Both have seen gains in the last year, with Apple moving up almost 14 percent.

With Cisco now suing Apple over use of the name "iPhone," something I intend to dig deeper into on Tuesday, the terminology might get a little muddled, given that people in the communication and advertising industry often use pertinent terms interchangeably without meaning to (myself included). Here's a quick term primer that might help keep it straight:

1. A brand refers to the general impression of a person, place, or company (total global awareness of the brand, along with the net sum of positive and negative impressions).

2. A logo is the design and/or name that represents the brand.

3. A trademark is a logo and/or name that has been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office or other government trademark offices.

4. A mark is the design element of the logo, apart from the name (eg. the Nike swoosh).

5. An identity is the presentation of company's communication material, which usually includes the logo (eg. an identity package).

This may be helpful in the months ahead as Cisco and Apple spend millions of dollars in a high-stakes legal battle over the "iPhone" trademark. However, if it gets equally ugly outside of the courtroom, the trademark may cause both companies "brand" damage.

3 comments:

Rick on 1/13/07, 6:18 PM said...

I just want to add my comments from the perspective of a trademark lawyer to your definitions. Generally, a trademark is defined as any word or symbol - including even sounds or scents - which distinguishes the source of one good from others. For example, the word NIKE and the symbol of the Swoosh Design distinguish a source of footwear from other sources such as REEBOK or ADIDAS. A service mark is a word or symbol which does the same thing for services. AT&T, for example, distinguishes a source of telephone services. Often, as in the case of KINKO'S a symbol can be both a trademark for goods such as paper and a service mark for services such as copying. The term "mark" refers generally to either or both trademarks and service marks. By the way, your definition of "trademark" implied that it needed to be registered by some government authority. To the contrary, federal and state laws protect trademarks and service marks even if they are unregistered if they have been used in commerce and distinguish particular goods or services.

The term "logo" really doesn't have a strict legal meaning but often is used to refer to a design format of a mark. The term "brand" is distinct from but related to a mark. A brand reflects the personality, public appeal and ultimate economic value in a mark. The strength of a mark depends upon its distinctiveness in the marketplace. Often, however, a "strong" - i.e. well-recognized - mark may have very low brand value. For instance, some years ago the makers of FIRESTONE tires had serious quality control problems. FIRESTONE remained strong as a trademark for tires but suffered grievously as a tire brand. It is the responsibility of marketing professionals to create the appealing brand personality in a mark. It is important, however, for marketing professionals to recognize that owning a trademark or service mark right in a symbol is the prerequisite to a brand. No mark, no brand.

This brings us around to the iPhone controversy. Trademark law does not permit a business to obtain any rights in a word or symbol which is the name of the product or service for which the symbol is used - the so-called generic term rule. In other words, a grocer can never get a trademark right for the word APPLE for fruits known as apples. On the other hand, the term APPLE is a fine mark for computers because it describes nothing about the product and there is no competitive need for other computer makers to use that term in their communication to the public. The question as I see it with respect to iPhone is whether the word is simply a generic term for a type of telephone. This question ultimately turns on the understandings of the relevant consumer market so I expect Apple and Cisco to introduce consumer surveys in addition to evidence from dictionary and media sources and references to the status of other "i-noun" terms.

Rich on 1/13/07, 6:40 PM said...

Hey Rick, I really appreciate your contribution, especially the depth of the response. Thank you.

"To the contrary, federal and state laws protect trademarks and service marks even if they are unregistered if they have been used in commerce and distinguish particular goods or services."

You are right, of course, which is why when you can apply for a trademark, its first usage is taken into consideration. I know this from experience, as well as several other great points you brought up.

While my intent was an overly quick post to correct myself in using the terms interchangeably (a bad habit in the communication industry), your addition clarifies it all very nicely and will hopefully give my colleagues some pause in how they use the terms.

Great addition! Thank you again.

Rich on 3/27/07, 7:56 AM said...

Vincent said...

Useful points!!! I think the most imporatant is to get the logo patenetd as asoon as possible. Trademark infringement is a serious threat and precaustions should be taken beforehand. >link<

HOWEVER,

I had to delete and repost this because I do not allow faux posts that are really spam ads on this this blog. Even as a self-proclaimed designer, Vincent from My Corporate Logo should also know that you do not "patent" a logo. My Corporate Logo seems to be a chop shop that delivers clip art as company logos.

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