With the 2011 college football season upon us, another reminder of the importance of protecting non-traditional trademarks came to mind. Boise State University’s blue turf is not only something that attracts student athletes and college football viewers alike, but it is also protected as a United States Patent and Trademark Office registered trademark. The design mark depicts a stadium with blue turf and has protected it as used in connection with “entertainment services, namely, the presentation of intercollegiate sporting events and sports exhibitions rendered in a stadium, and through the media of radio and television broadcasts and the global communications network.” Boise State University was able to acquire this non-traditional trademark registration based upon its longstanding use of the blue turf to distinguish its services from that of others, such as other universities. This trademark registration isn’t only a novelty item that the university can point to as further support of the importance of its blue turf, but it has also relied upon the same in opposing use of similar turf by other universities. In fact, Boise State and the University of New Haven have engaged in a trademark battle over the blue turf.
This is an example of a non-traditional trademark, sometimes known as a non-conventional trademark. Individual business owners and companies alike sometimes fail to identify and protect. It is important to look beyond conventional trademarks, such as those consisting of letters, numerals, words, logos, pictures and symbols, and focus upon marks based upon appearance, shape, sound, smell, taste and texture. While they may be more difficult to register, especially when they encompass moving images, holograms, positions, scents, or the like. A non-traditional trademark is equally as valuable as a traditional trademark. It affords the owner and registrant of the exclusive right to use that trademark in connection with whatever goods and services identified.
As the availability of words and images lessens, trademark owners that are willing to pursue and protect colored trademarks, motion trademarks, hologram trademarks, shape trademarks, and sound trademarks, will be well served. A trademark attorney can assist in determining whether or not your non-traditional trademark qualifies for protection, and if so, how to go about registering a non-traditional trademark.