Brands expected to follow Specsavers move to '˜own' words

More brands will attempt to 'own' commonly-used words in the wake of Specsavers' application to trademark 'should've' and 'shouldve,' an expert has predicted.

Optician Specsavers uses the catchphrase Shouldve gone to Specsavers in its television and billboard advertising campaigns. Picture: Contributed

The high street optician’s application to trademark the terms in order to safeguard its slogan “Should’ve gone to Specsavers” has been deemed valid by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and third
parties now have two months to raise any objections.

The catchphrase is central to Specsavers’ marketing campaigns, with adverts featuring hapless people who could have avoided embarrassing situations had they visited the optician beforehand.

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Tania Clark, partner and trademark attorney at intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers, said she expected more brand owners to apply to register a single word used in their advertising following Specsavers’ move.

She said: “It is surprising that the Office has accepted this trademark for a single word, which is a verb in common usage.

“While such registrations are not impossible to obtain – as this decision demonstrates – it means that the retailer could soon have the right to exclude others from using the word ‘should’ve’ or ‘shouldve’ when communicating about certain classes of goods, including optician services, medical hearing aids and eye wear.

“This monopoly right could make life extremely difficult for rivals who may want to use the word in their own marketing messages in future.

“In light of this, we would expect more brand owners to try to obtain a registration for a single word used in their advertising or marketing campaigns in the future. After all, the ability to exclusively own the right to use a commonly-used word in your communications activity is an incredibly powerful brand marketing tool.”

Trademarking a single word is unusual but has been done by companies in the past.

Carlsberg successfully registered the word “probably” in the UK after establishing the slogan “Probably the best lager in the world”.

McDonald’s has trademarked the phrase “I’m lovin’ it” and Nestlé has done the same with “Have a break” for its KitKat bars.

The IPO said applications for trademarks on common words could be made where they were linked to a company through use or association. An IPO spokesman said: “We can confirm that the application for the trademark in question was published on August 12.”