WalMart moves to stop Yeezy registering trademark on dotted sun logo

WalMart adopted its current logo in 2008, switching a five-pointed star for a yellow asterisk. It has now filed in opposition to Yeezy's trademark filing of a black dotted sun symbol, claiming it is too similar and will confuse customers.

According to the notice of opposition that it filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board on April 21 (as trademark attorney Erik Pelton pointed out) , Walmart claims that "it will be damaged by registration of [Yeezy LLC's] mark," since it has been using a lookalike mark – "a design of six rays symmetrically centered around a circle" – since at least 2007. As a result of its consistent use of the mark, which "can be found prominently featured on the exterior and interior signage of [its] more than 5,000 retail outlets, through the ecommerce platform, which has the second largest e-commerce market share in the U.S., and throughout [its] nationwide television commercials, including commercials aired during the Super Bowl," Walmart claims that its mark "has become well known and famous as a distinctive indicator of the origin of [its] goods and services and a symbol of [its] goodwill" as a company. 

Contrary to the opinions of fashion bloggers who just want to dunk on Kanye, these are not identical graphical elements. Moreover, Walmart's is a standard typographic character in an unremarkable typeface and color, notwithstanding its definition of it as a 'spark'. It's far from the first to register an asterisk—hundreds of live trademarks use one—let alone all the other similar characters or designs its claim implicitly covers.

Walmart's sheer financial muscle will be hard to resist, but its contemporary logo exposes a trap in the modern trend toward bland sans-serif logotype with extremely simplified graphical elements. From the outset the Walmart 'spark' was generic and indistinct, and this insecure legal action screams the mistake from the hills.

That said, Walmart's taste for the generic has a long history. The company spent vastly to appropriate the Smiley as a key branding element, doing endless legal battle with all the other entities doing likewise in the late 20th century. Walmart ultimately lost that trademark after suing over a parody: a judge voided the registration because it was, obviously, just a Smiley.