Companies Battle Over the Word “How”

Authors: Margaret A. Esquenet, Danielle Wright

The word “how” is the center of a trademark dispute between a best-selling author and a Greek yogurt manufacturer.

Author Dov Seidman recently brought suit in the Southern District of New York against yogurt maker Chobani and its advertising agency Droga5, claiming the companies stole his trademarked term “HOW”. In 2011, Seidman authored the best-selling book, “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything,” and has for the last ten years helped companies create more ethical cultures, according to a recent article by the New York Times. Reversely, Chobani ─ the nation’s largest Greek yogurt manufacturer ─ has vigorously used the term “How Matters” in marketing materials to illustrate the differences between how its yogurt and American yogurt are made. Chobani sought to cancel Seidman’s  trademark for “How” and filed its own trademark application for the phrase “How Matters.” To illustrate that Chobani and Droga5 had knowledge of his use of the term, Seidman points to a Twitter message addressed to him and sent out by Chobani, and a meeting in which the advertising agency was present. In its court documents, Droga5 claims to have never heard of Seidman.

How Seidman uses the term “how” may determine if he in fact keeps his rights. Under U.S. trademark law, descriptive marks, or marks which merely describe the services for which the mark is used, do not receive protection. If however consumers start to recognize the mark as an indication of source, then the mark is deemed to have acquired secondary meaning and may receive protection. According to the forward of Seidman’s book written by former President Bill Clinton, “This is a HOW book, not a how-to book.” But how exactly “how” is used, and any rights attached, will be for the court to decide.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Although we wish to hear from you, information exchanged in this blog cannot and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post any information that you consider to be personal or confidential. If you wish for Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP to consider representing you, in order to establish an attorney-client relationship you must first enter a written representation agreement with Finnegan. Contact us for additional information. One of our lawyers will be happy to discuss the possibility of representation with you. Additional disclaimer information.

Tagged , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: