The five times big businesses tried to trademark specific words

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Trademarks are something all big businesses strive for – just one more means of batting the competition away with a, well, bat. Swatch trademarked Apple’s iconic “One More Thing” catchphrase – a subtle dig – Kit Kat has its “Have a Break” and “Just Do It” is the preserve of Nike. 

Then enter Specsavers, which has recently delved into the world of intellectual property by trademarking part of its slogan – we say part as it’s just one word. The use of “should’ve” and “shouldve” has been approved by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). 

Many have been surprised that the office accepted a trademark for a single word, particularly one that’s a verb in common usage. But – though arguably not as spectacular as eradicating the word should’ve from all marketing campaigns – it’s not the first time a firm filed a trademark for a single word.

(1) Rond Rousey Inc

UFC fighter and actor Ronda Rousey is no stranger to the trademark process. Using her corporate entity, Ronda Rousey Inc, she registered a number of phrases. These include “F**k! Them All” and “DNB”, which stands for “Do Nothing B***h”. 

The word DNB garnered much success after she used it during “UFC episode 190” before her 34-second, first-round win over Bethe Correia. She later said it described a “Do Nothing B***h,” a woman who “tries to be pretty and be taken care of by someone else.” 

It’s not the only word she rushed to trademark though, with all of them having garnered success. In 2012 she gained a monopoly over the word “Rowdy” – she’s known as Rowdy Ronda Rousey – and later filed for “Armbarnation”.

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(2) Twitter

Let’s just say Twitter initially won a battle but lost the war. It turns out that for the longest time Twitter wasn’t allowed to claim ownership of the word “tweet” because of an earlier claim by a third-party developer: Twittad.

This Twitter-based advertising service had already trademarked the phrase “Let Your Ad Meet Tweets” in 2008, before Twitter even considered trademarking the word itself. So the social media platform went for the next best thing. It filed a trademark to claim “subtweet,” as well as”tweetstorm.”

Of course, during this time Twitter fought tooth and nail against Twittad to gain the right to use “tweet” – and the two firms finally came to a conclusion in 2011 according to the Wall Street Journal.

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“James Eliason, CEO of Twittad, said in an interview that Twitter would drop the lawsuit,” the article claimed. “In return, Des Moines-based Twittad would transfer its registered trademark of ‘tweet’ to Twitter. Eliason declined to say whether Twitter paid Twittad, citing a confidentiality agreement between the companies.”

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(3) Facebook

The social network giant was granted a monopoly of the word “face” under certain conditions – it only applies to usages in “telecommunication services, namely, providing online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards for transmission of messages among computer users in the field of general interest and concerning social and entertainment subject matter, none primarily featuring or relating to motoring or to cars.”

This is specified in its user agreement, so whenever you log in you’re agreeing that your next social media company’s brand name won’t have the word “face” in it. Similarly, you’re agreeing: “You will not use [its] copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Poke, Book and Wall), or any confusingly similar marks, except as expressly permitted by our Brand Usage Guidelines or with our prior written permission.”

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This set off red flags for many. Technically Facebook hasn’t trademarked “book” at all. Instead you’ll see the letters TM after the word, which generally limits the trademark to the company’s geographic location. The problem? Facebook is a global business. It seems to have found a way to wiggle around having an official trademark registration.

Read more to find out which two companies that weren’t prepared for a resounding no from trademark offices.

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