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Avoid using deceptive trademarks

By James Wan

What you need to know (in a nutshell)

  1. Trademarks exist to protect a business’s brand, however, some businesses use their brands in a way that may mislead customers.
  2. Deceptive trademarks are brand names that suggest a component, ingredient, or objective that would mislead consumers.
  3. It is important to consider whether a brand name can be considered purely suggestive or if it might mislead customers when creating a brand name, to avoid future legal issues and protect your brand with a trademark.

Full Article

Brand owners should be aware that trademarks protect their business, but they must ensure that their use of them is not misleading customers. This can happen intentionally or unintentionally.

Misleading consumers through ‘deceptive trademarks’ is a thing. Take the example of “VANILLA SNOW” ice cream, which tastes like chocolate - this would be considered deceptive.

A US trademark lawsuit was filed against Sazerac, makers of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey because a watchful public keeps a close eye on deceptive brands. In 2020, Sazerac released “Fireball Cinnamon”, a non-alcoholic malt beverage with natural whisky and other flavours plus caramel colouring. However, they have been sued for giving the impression that it contains alcohol.

The consequences of this cinnamon whiskey blunder remind us to check if brand names can be misconstrued before launching them. This is important for ensuring clients don’t mistake suggestions for facts. This action ensures you’re prepared and will save you time and money going forward.

In another example, Spencer Sheehan, or the “Vanilla Vigilante”, is bringing a class-action lawsuit against companies accused of falsely advertising their products as containing vanilla. He’s also renowned for filing suits against Frito-Lay and other major food producers over alleged consumer deception.

Don’t forget to trademark your brand for an extra layer of protection - it’s all the hard work you’ve invested in, after all.