'Green Gridlock' at Trademark Office

Eco-Friendly Brands Become a Hot Commodity

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Getting ready well in advance for today's Earth Day events, marketers bombarded the Patent and Trademark Office last year for green-themed marks, leading to a 10% spike in trademark filings over 2006, according to a report released by the law firm Dechert.
Term Occurrences
Green 2,400
Energy 1,200
Clean 900
Earth 900
Eco 900
Organic 700
Environment 450
Planet 400
Friendly 180
*Numbers are approximate

According to the annual report "Trends in Trademarks," filings for new trademarks last year topped 300,000, setting a record buoyed by interest in environmentalism. The previous record was 289,000 filings, set in 2000 during the internet boom.

'Green gridlock'
The surge led to "green gridlock, with multiple companies filing for almost-identical marks at nearly the same time," wrote Glenn Gundersen, chair of Dechert's trademark practice, in the report. "Clearly, it's not easy being green, since a trademark by definition is a distinctive term. ... Many of these me-too filings will either not merit legal protection or will be very weak trademarks."

Applications for everything from the obvious ("Eco-Friendly," "Go Green") to the slightly more creative ("Green Is the New Black," "Red States, Blue States, Green States") flooded the trademark office in 2007.

"Green" was the most popular word among marketers, with applications more than doubling from 1,100 in 2006 to 2,400 in 2007. That follows a 23% increase in applications in 2005 and a 37% increase in 2006.

Trademarks with the prefix "eco" were just as hot, also more than doubling, with nearly 900 new applications in 2007. Products ranging from an Eco-Brella to an EcoCoffin were submitted to the trademark office. Mr. Gundersen provided a tongue-in-cheek assessment, noting that "if all the new eco-branded products filed in 2007 actually came to market, an Eco Citizen could buy an EcoHouse in EcoTown from an Eco Realtor."

"Clean" was also in demand, paired with everything from "green" to "fuel" to "power." And trademarks using the word "friendly" saw an 88% increase, while filings using the word "energy" jumped 25%. Interest in the word "organic" was also at an all-time high, with filings using the word increasing 57% over 2006.
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