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Old 22 May 2009, 08:54 PM
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Default Can you trademark a number?

A story I hear from time to time (we may have even discussed it here, but I can't find any threads on it), is that the reason Intel switched from using numbers for its processors (286, 386, 486) to names like Pentium, and more recently Core, was because they were unable to trademark a number. I'd always throught this was a myth, and the reason for the change was because they had begun marketing their products directly to consumers, but can any of out legal experts answer whether or not a number can be a trademark?

Most recently, this has come up in a discussion on another board as to whether Boeing model numbers (737, 747... 787, etc) are trademarked.
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  #2  
Old 22 May 2009, 09:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
Most recently, this has come up in a discussion on another board as to whether Boeing model numbers (737, 747... 787, etc) are trademarked.
Yes, you can trademark numbers (just as you can other words and phrases) for specific uses, and Boeing does in fact hold trademarks for model numbers such as 737,
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Old 22 May 2009, 09:43 PM
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One of the problems that Intel had with naming its processors (80286, 80386 etc) was that they already had an chip call an 80786, but I'm sure that the real reason is marketing, simply that Pentium is a more memorable name than 80586.
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Old 22 May 2009, 09:55 PM
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Intel could register its processors as "Intel 80586" or "Intel 586" if it liked but the USPTO decided "586" by itself wasn't sufficiently remarkable to be a registered trademark.

Intel attempted to register "486" in May 1989 and failed, abandoning the application in July 1993. I think this was their first attempt by Intel to register all uses of a number - no application for "386" or "286" or "80286" exists so far as I can tell.

Apparently expecting "586" would have the same problem, Intel applied to the USPTO for a trademark of "586" and one for "i586" in November 1989. The "586" registration (like "486") was not granted and the application was dropped in September 1992. The "i586" trademark was registered successfully with the disclaimer "no claim is made to the exclusive right to use '586' apart from the mark as shown," and was abandoned in April 1994.

In July 1992 Intel applied for a trademark on "Pentium" and this was registered in May 1994. The processor (Pentium/i586) was released in May 1993.

www.uspto.gov

ETA: Boeing does own the registered trademarks of "737," "747," etc. so you can register a trademark of a number. (And you can use a trademark without registering; you just can't protect it very well until it is registered.)

The fact that both AMD and Intel were using the x86 numbering scheme as of 1991 (as "x86" had become the standard name for the architecture type) probably had a lot to do with the inability of Intel to register "x86" variants for itself.

Last edited by Alchemy; 22 May 2009 at 10:18 PM.
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Old 22 May 2009, 10:11 PM
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I am not a sports fan of any kind and that would especially apply to Nascar, but my understanding is that the Nascar drivers have their numbers trademarked. I know this because I used to design juvenile bedding, and we had a line with racing car themes, but we had to be very careful not to use any numbers that were actually in use by racecar drivers. ~Well, I say I know this, all I know is my boss told me we couldn't, but she was pretty careful about copyrights and stuff.
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Old 22 May 2009, 10:21 PM
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On a similar theme, I heard a story about some cricketer who amassed a score of 501. (I don't know who, I have very little interest in the sport apart from when we're beating Australia which isn't often). Unfortunately for him, he was unable to market anything afterwards because Levi already held the trademark for that number.

ETA: I've just checked Wikipedia and apparently it was Brian Lara, I should probably have known that.
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  #7  
Old 24 May 2009, 10:16 PM
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I've heard, (and believe) that Peugeot has the trademark on all 3 digit numbers with a zero in the middle.
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  #8  
Old 24 May 2009, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skeptic View Post
I've heard, (and believe) that Peugeot has the trademark on all 3 digit numbers with a zero in the middle.
If they did, I don't know that they could successfully defend trademark challenges against the model numbers they aren't using (and have never used).
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Old 25 May 2009, 01:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dactyl View Post
On a similar theme, I heard a story about some cricketer who amassed a score of 501. (I don't know who, I have very little interest in the sport apart from when we're beating Australia which isn't often). Unfortunately for him, he was unable to market anything afterwards because Levi already held the trademark for that number.

ETA: I've just checked Wikipedia and apparently it was Brian Lara, I should probably have known that.
Levi's 501 trademark only applies to jeans (both in the US and the UK). By doing a trademark search (US link, UK link) you will find that 501 is in use by several other companies for different applications. As long as Brian Lara wasn't trying to sell jeans (or another protected product) with a 501 mark, he should have been reasonably safe. However, some companies are overzealous when it comes to defending a trademark (Monster Cable comes to mind) and will sue anyone that uses a mark even when the mark is being used for a product outside of the protected category.
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  #10  
Old 25 May 2009, 04:30 AM
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Default Peugeot has the trademark on all 3 digit numbers with a zero in the middle

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
If they did, I don't know that they could successfully defend trademark challenges against the model numbers they aren't using (and have never used).
I think the idea is that they have trademarked the pattern of the numbers, not the numbers themselves.
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  #11  
Old 28 May 2009, 09:56 PM
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I heard a similar rumor about the Patriots/Giants Super Bowl. Supposedly, the team trademarked "19-0" in advance so they could put out tons of merchandise. So a smart aleck from New York went out and trademarked "18-1" in response.
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  #12  
Old 28 May 2009, 09:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skeptic View Post
I think the idea is that they have trademarked the pattern of the numbers, not the numbers themselves.
I don't think you can trademark a letter/number pattern unless it's rendered in some specific stylized way unique to your product or company.
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  #13  
Old 28 May 2009, 10:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrekkerScout View Post
Levi's 501 trademark only applies to jeans (both in the US and the UK). By doing a trademark search (US link, UK link) you will find that 501 is in use by several other companies for different applications. As long as Brian Lara wasn't trying to sell jeans (or another protected product) with a 501 mark, he should have been reasonably safe.
The only one that seemed to come up on the US website was to do with ceramics / composites, and I couldn't see immediately how to do a trademark search on the UK site (as opposed to just search the website, which didn't return anything relevant).

But anyway, my point was that I suspect Levi would include any variety of clothing as being "related" to jeans - and that seems a fair point, as Levi does sell other clothing too. So any clothing with a "501" logo might be challenged, and that would probably rule out most of what Brian Lara might have wanted to sell. Specialised cricket equipment such as bats and pads, maybe. I don't know whether Levi has any sportswear pretensions.
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  #14  
Old 28 May 2009, 10:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
I don't think you can trademark a letter/number pattern unless it's rendered in some specific stylized way unique to your product or company.
There's a contemporary font designer called Fidel Peugot. I'm unsure, I'm still looking, but I don't think he's got anything to do with the French car company. Perhaps confusion over his name and popular confusion over the difference between trademard and copyright has caused the rumour.
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  #15  
Old 29 May 2009, 01:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
I don't think you can trademark a letter/number pattern unless it's rendered in some specific stylized way unique to your product or company.
You can trademark a design, so a design made up of numbers -- the font, placement, color, etc. -- is certainly trademarkable.

But as others have already shown, you can also trademark the number itself. Here is a trademark for the number 501, with the trademark owned by the Bose Corporation.

The trademark is only enforceable against products that could be confused with the original. Levi's owns a trademark for 501, too. Since Bose makes audio equipment and Levi's makes clothing, the trademarks don't conflict. But if you sold "System 501" speakers, Bose would sue you.
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  #16  
Old 29 May 2009, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
You can trademark a design, so a design made up of numbers -- the font, placement, color, etc. -- is certainly trademarkable.
I doubt it. You'd have to trademark every glyph - 128+ trademarks for a single "font". You can copyright them* and you can trademark the name but I don't think the glyphs themselves have ever been (or could reasonably be) trademarked. (Of course, many trademarks include a name written in a specific typeface but that's different. The whole symbol is trademarked, not the glyphs.)

* ETA - Oops, I misread your post. I thought you were saying you could trademark a font itself... Anyway, according to Wikipedia, you can't even copyright typefaces. I wonder if the electronic data used to store one can be, though... curious.

Last edited by ganzfeld; 29 May 2009 at 02:10 PM.
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