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Blanding and Trademark Protection: Finding the Balance for Effective Branding


20. February 2023

By María Paula González. Business Development Representative

The world of branding is in a state of flux, with brands moving away from the traditionally ornate and stylized logos and embracing a more minimalist, “bland” approach. While this trend can be traced to the desire to simplify logos and make them more versatile, it has also raised questions about the potential loss of trademark rights for brands that have used a specific stylization or logo for an extended period. This article explores the trend of “blanding” in more detail, examining the legal issues around trademark protection and what brands can do to ensure they are not infringing on existing trademarks.

The Rise of Blanding

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of brands adopting more minimalist and simple logos, often featuring plain block letters or sans-serif fonts. This trend, sometimes referred to as “blanding,” has been driven by a number of factors, including the need to create logos that can be used across a range of platforms and devices, as well as the influence of key designers and creative firms.

Some of the most high-profile examples of this trend include the recent rebrands of fashion brands like Burberry, Balenciaga, and Rimowa, all of which have moved away from their previously ornate logos in favor of more streamlined and minimalist designs. At the same time, a growing number of brands in other industries, from tech giants like Google and Facebook to consumer goods companies like Proctor & Gamble and Nestle, are also embracing this more simplified approach to branding.

The Legal Issues Around Trademark Protection

From a legal perspective, the move towards more minimalist logos raises a few questions around trademark protection. Trademark rights are typically accrued through actual use of a mark over an extended period, and as such, discontinuing use of a particular logo or stylization could potentially lead to the loss of those rights, even if the brand has previously registered those marks.

This issue is particularly relevant if the previous logo or stylization was used for an extended period and was recognized and beloved by consumers. In this scenario, a brand may need to establish trademark rights and consumer recognition from scratch in a new logo, which can be a time-consuming and costly process. Brands that wish to refresh their branding while still benefiting from the goodwill of a prior mark may therefore need to consider modifications that update but do not completely change the commercial impression of the brand.

The Importance of Distinctiveness in Trademark Protection

To maximize the protection afforded by trademark law, it is important for brands to create distinctive marks that can be easily recognized and distinguished from those of other brands. This is particularly important in cases where a brand wishes to go after similar or identical trademarks in any kind of stylization or in combination with a logo.

One way to achieve this is to focus on creating a plain word trademark, rather than relying on the stylization of those words. By doing so, the distinctiveness of the mark will rest on the words themselves, rather than any decorative elements or stylization. This can help to ensure that the trademark is more easily distinguishable from others and can therefore be more easily protected under trademark law.

The Benefits of Blanding for Brands

Despite the potential legal issues around trademark protection, there are several benefits for brands that embrace the trend of “blanding.” For one, more minimalist logos can be easier to use across a range of platforms and devices, which can help to ensure that the brand is more visible and recognizable across multiple channels.

In addition, more minimalist logos can also help to create a more consistent and cohesive brand image, which can be particularly important for larger brands that operate across a range of different markets and regions. By adopting a more uniform and standardized approach to branding, brands can ensure that they are presenting a clear and recognizable identity to their customers.

The trend of “blanding” in the world of intellectual property and branding has transformed how companies approach their logos and visual identities. While some argue that this shift towards simpler and more uniform designs is a result of risk aversion and over-reliance on metrics, others see it as good business practice, enabling brands to use their logos across multiple platforms and stand out from their competitors.

Conclusion about Blanding and Trademark Protection: The Importance of Balance

To balance the need for simplicity and uniformity with the importance of maintaining trademark rights and consumer recognition, brands should consider modifications that update the commercial impression of the brand, rather than completely changing it. A good possibility can be breaking with traditional branding processes and embracing the concept of “backwards branding.” This way, companies can create a more effective and efficient brand strategy that can evolve with consumer needs and preferences. This approach can also help companies avoid costly mistakes and ensure that their brand is well-received by their target market.

In conclusion, the trend of “blanding” is a result of several factors and has significant implications for trademark protection. Brands need to consider the potential loss of trademark rights when rebranding and take steps to establish consumer recognition for their new logos. By balancing the need for simplicity with the importance of trademark protection, companies can create an effective and efficient brand strategy that can evolve with the changing needs of consumers.

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