Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

Red Bull is Full of Energy

Two strange soccer-related things happened to me yesterday – one, I watched the USA’s crushing defeat of  tie with, England in FIFA (R) World Cup action.   The other was that when I was pulling out the inserts in my New York Times, there was a magazine called The Red Bulletin, which at first I thought was many pages of advertising for RED BULL.  Upon flipping through this glossy epic, I saw that it was many pages of advertising for the New York Red Bulls Major League Soccer team, whose very existence constitutes advertising for the energy drink. 

There is a concept in trademark law called “mutilation of a mark” — changing a mark, usually by eliminating elements in it, in such a way that it could ultimately weaken the original brand.  Here, an advertising supplement called The Red Bulletin strikes me as a type of self-mutilation – substituting a word that, although it contains the first syllable BULL- really means something completely unrelated to BULL.  (I’ll refrain from BULL jokes relating to a magazine that is solely ads.)  Maybe if it were presented in a way that the RED BULL portion of the magazine title stands out — something like The RED BULL-etin.  But as shown in the above picture, BULLETIN does not separate out the “bull” part.  So Red Bull will have to count on being strong in flavor and energy power, since it may be unwittingly weakening its very brand.

Red Bull also needs to figure out that Americans are just not that passionate about soccer — it was a pretty bold move to name an American soccer team and brand-new stadium after itself.  After all, the big tie was not even the subject of a front page article in todays New York Times, just a photo and caption pointing people to the sports section.

June 13, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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