Trademarks in Television: Recipe for Disaster? Part 1

What do you think when you hear the phrase “trademark?” Probably the big ones – Disney®, Coca-Cola®, or the NFL®.

A trademark is a word, logo or package design used by a manufacturer to identify source. Trademarks can include words, colors, symbols, or packaging elements used separately or together. It is not just one word, but all of the elements combined and the overall impression of the mark as a whole. One of the values that trademark owners get is the right to say how the mark is used in commerce.

One question I get on a regular basis is related to the use of trademarks while filming. The big category of trademarks, words or names, are easy to identify. From the filmmakers I have spoken with, as a best practice, trademarks are generally avoided when filming. Should they be? How can they be used? And, what about those trademarks that are not so obvious?

I often need reminding that a trademark can take many forms. The most recent reminder came to me this week while cooking dinner. I love balsamic vinegar. If a recipe calls for it, the odds are I am going to love, love, love the dish. And, even greater odds are that The Hubs will be dining on the dish on a fairly regular basis. We go through a lot of balsamic in the Saucier house.

Here are links to some of my favorite recipes using this tasty ingredient. Give them a try.

Caprese Salad via Rachel Ray:

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic via Giada De Laurentiis

My new favorite brand is Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar. It’s packed full of flavor and can usually be found at a good price point. As of late, for a mid-priced balsamic this is my go-to.

Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar

Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar (R)

I happened to turn over the bottle and noticed that the designation on the bottle showed that not only is the name Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar a registered trademark, but also the “Bottle Shape” is registered. (See bottom left of the label)

Balsamic Bottle Back

I was familiar that some bottle shapes, like the Coca-Cola bottle and the Aunt Jemima syrup bottle, are unique enough that the bottle itself designates the maker of the product. Or said another way, the trademark owner. It never occurred to me that a balsamic bottle, albeit with no overly distinct characteristics such as a face on the Aunt Jemima bottle, could have achieved high enough notoriety that it is identifiable by bottle shape alone. It’s a pretty bottle, has some distinguishing characteristics, but until I started using it – I am not certain it would have chosen out of a bottle line-up. Apparently I came late to the love of Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar! It has, in fact, been deemed able for registration by the U.S. Trademark Office.

So, what does my love of balsamic vinegar have to do with trademarks, filmmaking and television? Like all good television shows – this is your cliffhanger! [cue, dramatic music with perhaps a maniacal laugh].

Tune in next week for the answer.

8 thoughts on “Trademarks in Television: Recipe for Disaster? Part 1

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