Blurring of a trademark brand and how it weakens the brand - with examples

Blurring of a trademark brand and how it weakens the brand - with examples

  • 06 May, 2024
  • Nyall Engfield

"Blurring" refers to a situation where a trademark's distinctiveness and brand identity become diluted or blurred due to its unauthorized use on unrelated goods or services. This can damage the trademark's selling power and ability to serve as a unique identifier. Here are some real-world examples of trademark blurring and its effects:

  1. Victoria's Secret - Lingerie to various products - Victoria's Secret, known for its lingerie and beauty products, saw its trademark become blurred when unauthorized third parties, but also the company itself in some instances, started using the "Victoria's Secret" name on products like grooming products, beverages, and even cybersex websites. This blurring caused confusion, tarnished the brand's image, and likely impacted sales of its core lingerie products.
  2. Polo Ralph Lauren - Apparel to home furnishings - The famous Polo player logo faced blurring when not only counterfeiters and unauthorized sellers, but the company itself started putting it on all kinds of home furnishings, appliances, and even dog food. This overexposure blurred Polo's identity as a premium apparel brand and potentially diminished its pricing power.Harley-Davidson - Motorcycles to unrelated merchandise - The iconic Harley-Davidson brand experienced blurring when its bar & shield logo started appearing on products completely unrelated to motorcycles, like ceiling fans, alcohol flasks, cigar cases. I saw a set of votive candles with the Harley logo on them once. Try justifying that the to the biker who has tattooed the logo onto his arm! This excessive merchandising blurred Harley's brand as a motorcycle manufacturer.
  3. Caterpillar - Heavy equipment to apparel Caterpillar Inc. battled blurring when its distinctive "CAT" trademark was used by the company and third parties on a wide range of apparel and accessories far removed from its core construction/mining equipment business. This threatened to blur CAT's industrial brand identity.

In these cases, the blurring of trademarks by uncontrolled overexposure on unrelated products caused brand diffusion and loss of exclusivity. This can negatively impact sales of the brand's genuine core products by eroding its distinctive identity and premium brand positioning in consumers' minds.

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