Can you protect your marketing strapline?

If your strapline is purely descriptive such as “we clean your houses”, it is highly unlikely that you would be able to register it as a trade mark. Similarly, if your strapline is not distinctive in that it doesn’t differentiate your goods or services from others, then again, it is unlikely that you would be able to register it as a trade mark.

This is the reason why companies can get away with using straplines such as ‘Simply the best’ or ‘The natural choice’ – they are not capable of being registered as trade marks due to the fact that they are often used in trade are not distinctive. What you need to come up with is a strapline that is unique and non-descriptive. Then you can trade mark it and prevent others from using it.

Think of some famous straplines – ‘Just Do It’, ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’, ‘It’s the Real Thing’. All of these straplines are registered trade marks and if you were to use the strapline in connection with similar goods or services, you would be infringing the trade mark and the owner of the trade mark could take action against you.

An application to trademark the slogan “NEVER CLEAN YOUR SHOWER AGAIN” was refused on the grounds that it described in plain language the intended purpose of the goods.

The strapline ‘THE SHOES YOUR FEET HAVE BEEN ACHING FOR’ passed the examination stage even though the intended purpose of the goods was obvious, because the slogan was an unusual way of conveying a descriptive message.

A trade mark will be refused if it the strapline is a common phrase in the relevant industry and describes not just characteristics to the consumer but also the quality of the goods.

So if a strapline is a well known phrase, it may still be registered if that phrase does not describe an essential characteristic of the goods or services.

So for example the strapline ‘IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE’ was accepted for shoe polish, as it was decided that you would not associate Rocket Science with shoe polish.