Ask Dr. Copyright

Dear Doc:

I know that people use numbers in business and product names all the time. How can numbers be protectable trademarks?

Your #1 Fan

Dear #1:

Funny you should ask! This issue was just in the news. The famous (and famously rich) Kendall Jenner now has what every aspiring famous person should have: her own tequila brand. Ms. Jenner named her tequila “818 Tequila” which is one of the area codes for Los Angeles, where she lives. 

There is, however, a problem (or an alleged problem) with Ms. Jenner’s choice of trademark for her booze. You see, the telephone area code for Austin, Texas, is 512, and there is another tequila… you guessed it: “Tequila 512”. 512 has, naturally, sued

Now the Doc would not want to confuse you, especially when you are sampling all of these tasty beverages, but the Doc also knows about “1800 Tequila”,  and also “4 Copas”, “1519 Tequila”, “Gonzalez 1939”, “Codigo 1530”, “Seleccion 1146”, “123 Tequila”, and several others.  That’s not even mentioning “Baccardi 151” rum, “Bin 44” wine, and so on and so forth.

If you’re not confused yet, then consider that there are “Motel 6s” and “Super 8 Motels”. It seems that numbers are routinely used to name products (“Chanel No. 5”) but that there are so many of them that it takes a lot of marketing to make a number “stick” as a valuable trademark that consumers associate with a particular product’s source. That is called having “secondary meaning”, and the Trademark Office has a “secondary register” where such trademarks are registered once the owners prove that consumers have come to uniquely associate their mark with the applicant’s particular company.

So, #1, the best choice for you may be a bottle of “Number Juan” tequila that the Doc saw on the shelf just the other day.

Have a trademark that you’d like to register? Talk to the attorneys at LW&H. They not only know their trademark law, but also patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and they know the difference between a resposado and an anejo.

Until next month,

The “Doc”

— Lawrence A. Husick, Esq.