Social Media Blog

Using a Generic Brand Name – It’s a Double-Edged Sword

Posted by Adnan Meher on 18 Jun 2015

As a commercial litigator, I have to say I enjoy a good, complex and lengthy legal battle. While most clients appreciate my passion for my work, they don’t really enjoy the price tag that comes with a complex legal dispute. As both an IP lawyer and commercial litigator, I use both skill sets to work with clients to develop strong brands that are capable of not only registration, but more importantly, enforcement. From my experience, a brand that compromises of general or descriptive words is both difficult to register as a trade mark and generally costs more to protect.

A perfect example is the brand “MAN WITH A VAN.” The brand is owned by Tim Bishop, who has both the plain words “MAN WITH A VAN” and the following logo registered as trade marks in respect of removal services.

According to Mr Bishop “the name has been a double-edged sword. On one hand it’s easy to remember. On the other hand, its generic nature makes it too easy to steal and rip-off.”

Mr Bishop has incurred significant legal fees trying to stop other companies from using the same or similar name and branding. The Internet, and in particular Google Adwords, has made it easier for other traders to take advantage of Mr Price’s brand reputation and goodwill. Given his brand contained a simple expression, Mr Bishop found that other traders would “use different plays on words, to try and get as close they could in the title.” For example, traders have used ‘we have a man and van’ and ‘there are two men with vans.’ Mr Bishop lost jobs to competitors and this also had an impact on his brand reputation.

While choosing a generic business name or brand name may weaken your ability to protect your Intellectual Property, it does have a benefit. Most people use very generic terms when conducting a Google search. A generic brand name may improve your search ratings and enhance your brand’s online presence. Often a balance needs to be achieved to obtain the best of both worlds.

For further information or if you need assistance with your brand development, please contact: