This week saw the resolution of two major trademark disputes with interesting implications for the future of brands as we know them. Here's a closer look.
We all know that names and logos can be trademarked. Even regions have been allowed to trademark themselves for over a hundred years - since the 1891 Treaty of Madrid held that only sparkling wine from the region of Champagne could use the enticing name.
So profit off of a slogan or a label from another company and someone will come after you - and they're not always as polite about it as Jack Daniels (BF-B) is.
But can you trademark a color? Or name your product with a parody of another brand? These seem like pretty trivial questions, but they're actually causing a lot of trouble.
For one, there's the story of Nestle (OTC: NSRTY) - the Swiss chocolate giant that incited the wrath of Cadbury by trying to sell chocolates using Cadbuy's signature shade of Mauve. Cadbury's owners, Mondelez International (MDLZ), initiated a suit over the matter - saying, "Our color purple has been linked with Cadbury for a century and the British Public has grown up understanding its link with our chocolate."
But can a color really be considered intellectual property, even if you've been using it for a hundred years? British courts held that the answer is no, and that Cadbury's claim failed to illustrate the "clarity," "precision," and "objectivity," required for protection.
Parody, as well, was taken off the table this month.
The social-gaming website Zynga (ZNGA) recently won a dispute with the website "Bang With Friends," alledging that the casual-sex application had deliberately drawn the name of their brand from Zynga's popular "With Friends" franchise, including "Words With Friends." The suit was settled amicably with "Bang With Friends" promising to change their name without going to court.
Maybe both companies were concerned that a heated legal battle would erode their friendly images.
And, of course, that brings us to some of the most valuable brand names of all - which were announced this week in Interbrand's list of 100 "Best Global Brands." The top name probably won't surprise you. Here's a hint: According to Interbrand, the name alone of this fruit-named company is worth over $98 billion.
How do you like them apples?
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Some companies clearly have brands that are (more or less) worth stealing. But beyond the legal battles, are there any investment ideas? Use the interactive charts below to begin your own analysis.
1.Zynga Inc. (ZNGA, Earnings, Analysts, Financials):Develops, markets, and operates online social games as live services on the Internet, social networking sites, and mobile platforms in the United States and internationally. Market cap at $3.04B, most recent closing price at $3.67.
2.Mondelez International, Inc. (MDLZ, Earnings, Analysts, Financials):Together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and markets snack food and beverage products worldwide. Market cap at $54.61B, most recent closing price at $30.54.
3.Brown-Forman Corporation (BF-B, Earnings, Analysts, Financials):Engages in the manufacturing, bottling, importing, exporting, marketing, and selling alcoholic beverages. Market cap at $14.48B, most recent closing price at $67.75.
4.Apple Inc. (AAPL, Earnings, Analysts, Financials):Designs, manufactures, and markets personal computers, mobile communication and media devices, and portable digital music players, as well as sells related software, services, peripherals, networking solutions, and third-party digital content and applications worldwide. Market cap at $444.07B, most recent closing price at $483.41.
(List compiled by James Dennin. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research, all other data sourced from Finviz.)
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Analyze These Ideas: Getting StartedRead descriptions for all companies mentioned Access a performance overview for all stocks in the list Compare analyst ratings for the companies mentioned Compare analyst ratings to annual returns for stocks mentioned Real-Time Opinion: Scan the latest tweets about these companies (feed will open in a new window)
Dig Deeper: Access Company Snapshots, Charts, FilingsZynga Inc.(ZNGA, Chart, Download SEC Filings) Mondelez International, Inc.(MDLZ, Chart, Download SEC Filings) Brown-Forman Corporation(BF-B, Chart, Download SEC Filings) Apple Inc.(AAPL, Chart, Download SEC Filings)
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