OMG! Battle looms over WTF! trademarks

P&G wakes up to internet abbreviations, LOL

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Giant multinational Procter & Gamble has filed for trademarks incorporating internet slang abbreviations including LOL to appeal to younger consumers – but it can expect to face challenges from hundreds of companies who, er, already thought of the idea ages ago.

P&G registered to use marks including "OMG", "LOL" and "WTF" earlier this year for use in four categories of cleaning products. However, the US Patent and Trademark Office database shows 483 records for word marks contains the abbreviation "OMG", while the EU equivalent database has some 177.

"TLDR" has four records, one of which is live, filed by New York Public Radio in 2014. Some of the trademarks go back decades, such as the "ROFL" mark filed by Californian clothing company called Ideawear for use on merchandise in 1999.

Even if granted, P&G will have a fight on its hands to use them. For example, the EU Intellectual Property Office entry for "OMG" belongs to Cleaning and Paper Disposables Limited of Hull, and it certainly overlaps with some of P&G's intended uses.

Unlike copyright, trademark protection is not "automatic", and the rights-holder loses it if they are not actively using the mark. However, a smaller trademark holder can cause immense problems for any larger company assuming that since it's big, it must prevail. As this report noted, several companies registered "iWatch" before Apple developed its wearable, which is may explain why the Apple Watch is called the Apple Watch.

Then again, policing your rights can cost a lot of money, as smaller producers find when a giant company creates a similar product using the distinctive branding they devised and invested heavily in; as the ongoing dispute between smaller producers and supermarket behemoth Aldi shows. ®


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