UK Intellectual Property Office grants trademark on "should've"

The trademark was granted to discount eyewear company Specsavers, whose slogan is "should've gone to Specsavers." If you object, you have until October 12 to file with the IPO.

National trademark offices are usually averse to granting trademarks on useful, generic, real words to companies ("best buy" for example, is less enforceable than "Amazon," because the former is something that stores generically claim to provide, while the latter is not associated with retail except insofar as has succeeded in making it so).

"Should've" is one of those terms that falls on the "best buy" rather than "Amazon" side of the spectrum. By granting this trademark, the IPO has created the situation for much mischief, since trademark lawyers take the (self-serving) precautionary principle that every time someone utters your trademark without permission, you should pay a trademark lawyer to threaten them lest the term gradually become so generic that the trademark office revokes it.

The combination of extreme, evidence-light paid aggression by trademark lawyers and a grant on a mark that's a normal, generic word is a recipe for disaster. Expect to see Specsavers threatening people willy-nilly in the near future.

It said that applications for trademarks on common words could be made where they were linked to a company through "use or association".

"It is surprising that the office has accepted this trade mark for a single word, which is a verb in common usage," said trademark lawyer Tania Clark from Withers and Rogers.

"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 eyewear."
It is relatively uncommon for companies to trademark a word in common usage, but Carlsberg secured a trademark for the word "probably" in 1993 in the UK, Ms Clark said.

Specsavers seeks to trademark 'should've' catchphrase

(Image: Cambridge Dictionary)

(Thanks, William!)