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Those who watched cartoons (or who grew up in the 1990’s, like me - yes, I am really that young) will remember T.V. spots from Saturday morning cartoons for McDonald’s. The spots usually featured some extraordinarily absurd mismatch between kids and reality, such as having recess for every period during school and eating McDonald’s at every meal (I’m sure somebody named Michelle Obama would have something to say about that). The spots always ended with a catchy little jingle: “McWORLD!!! Hey, it could happen!”

So imagine the nostalgia I felt when I saw that Taco Bell, which has announced a totally unique breakfast menu consisting of items like a waffle taco, was bringing in Ronald McDonald to promote its new breakfast menu. Not the Ronald McDonald, the one in the bright yellow suit, goofy red shoes, and the one that gives those with clown-phobia’s the willies. But a person whose name is Ronald McDonald (of which there are, apparently, many). The idea seems clever as a type of advertisement: “Come to Taco Bell for breakfast. Even Ronald McDonald likes Taco Bell for breakfast over McDonald’s”.



 
 
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If you are looking for a good specimen of how a company should act to protect important corporate intangible assets, Apple is probably one of the best candidates. Despite the flack it gets from some for using marks that, at often times have faced conflicts from other owners (iPhone and iWatch are the most prominent examples), the company does a great job of controlling the end-user experience and informing the market of its brands. As a brand owner “inform” is what you want your mark to do and “control” is what you want over a mark and the way it is used by others. For products that the public may be unfamiliar with because the product lacks another close analogue in the marketplace (think really unique types of devices like Apple’s iPhone, when it first hit the marketplace), it can be more important to exercise strict control over the brand to ensure that the brand does not become the name of the product.

The same problem doesn’t exist for products or technologies that have been around for a while and which are common across multiple products. In these cases, many companies might produce the same product or implement the same technology, with various tweaks that make the product the company’s own. If a company makes a tweak to a commonly available product or technology, it wants to make sure that its contribution is not manipulated. Part of this concern goes to the company’s desire to protect proprietary components that are part of the product itself, while the other part of the concern is driven by the company’s desire to protect the image of the company itself.



 
 
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I will admit that I have never gotten on the whole Pinterest trip, despite being surrounded by family and friends who love the site. Not that I have anything against the platform; I just don’t understand how it works and have never put the time in to learning. I have so many other social media platforms to keep up with! The basics make enough sense to me that I can summarize them as follows: Pinterest is a type of software platform that allows users to share content in the form of visual bookmarks that others with like interests can browse in order to become more informed about (or be entertained by) a particular subject. Users of the site place items on their digital posting boards. The posting medium is given the name “pin”, a cute reference to the fact that items are digitally pinned to a particular page.

I may not use the site, but one thing about the site (or is it an application? platform?) that did capture my interest was Pinterest’s recent move to protect the “Pin” trademark. Apparently it’s something that the website wants to be known for. Pinterests’ platform is sleek and the concept is cool. It is the perfect play to a consuming audience that thrives on information and the ability to share it. So maybe it was only a matter of time until other market entrants attempted to get a piece of the pie.

Enter Pintrips in 2011 with a similar concept to that of Pinterest: through a website, users can collect, compare, and share information about a particular interest by using a “pin”. Yes, that’s right. Pretty much exactly what Pinterest allows. Pinterest even had their own “pin” button.


 
 
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By now pretty much everybody has heard about the “Dumb Starbucks” episode, which pitted a Comedy Central personality against that oh-so-well-known coffee shop with locations on every street corner (if not, here is a primer). Was it a publicity stunt masquerading as satire, or was it a legitimate business engaging in an operational style that can only be characterized as avant garde? The conflict may be a short month away from reaching another boiling point (even hotter than the steaming milk that those lattes have). You see, Nathan Wilder, Dumb Starbuck’s brainchild (or was it Comedy Central?) is planning on opening another location in Brooklyn soon.

In its first installment, Dumb Starbucks was shut down within a few short days of its initial opening for… health permit violations, of all things. So will the Brooklyn store manage to outlast the short lifespan of the original? We’ll see, although it seems like New York City would be a place with health standards for food outlets that are as strict as those in California. I’m pretty sure the Dumb Starbucks brand will be on full display, at least if Mr. Wilder hopes to acquire the same attention that he acquired through his first store and make the same point he set out to make originally.