During the course of a business meeting held in our offices recently, it became apparent that there was some confusion in relation to the registrability of slogans/taglines as trade marks.  Surprise was expressed at the fact that slogans can in fact be protected as trade marks and that many well known slogans are so registered.

Slogans, if they are memorable and distinctive, have become very valuable and can be favourably compared to brands. You will often hear family members use big brand slogans accidentally in chat  – “Just do it”, “every little helps”  – and we are all reminded immediately of Nike and Tesco.

If your company devises a clever slogan, it would be prudent for you to protect that asset so some else doesn’t register it as a Trade Mark and prevent you from using it.

Audi’s  now famous slogan, devised for English TV in 1982 “Vorspung durch Technik”, was allowed on appeal to the European Court of Justice.  The Court held that, even though the slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik” {“progress through technology} conveys a descriptive message, it does not follow that the mark is devoid of any inherently distinctive character.

Some examples of slogans which have been registered are:

(1) “Every little helps”,

(2) “I can’t believe it’s yogurt!”

(3) “Top breeders recommend it”.

(4) “From thought to finish”

(5) “Just do it!”

(6) “Time has quality”

Examples of slogans which have been refused are:

(1) “Innovation for the real world”;

(2) “Real people, real solutions”,

(3) “Have a break”,   Mars successfully objected to Nestlé’s effort to protect the slogan.

(4) “Say it with champagne”.

(5) “More for your money”

Essentially a slogan must be treated just like any other kind of trade mark when assessing whether or not it is distinctive and can be registered as a trade mark.  A slogan, just like any other mark, must have the capacity to function as an indication of the commercial origin of goods and/or services.

We here in MacLachlan & Donaldson can advise clients on protection of slogans and taglines and importantly share the criteria on what can be protected and what can not!