Trademark this Title™

I delight in creating meaningful phrases that express the identity of my clients' brands. I encourage clients to seek trademark registration ® for these phrases when appropriate, and to mark them with a ™ when registration is not possible.  (The ® mark provides greater legal protection than does a ™.)

I recently saw a website that appears to be misusing trademarks. Fentress Architects, a firm that does many airport terminals and other major public projects, enumerates eight principles to which they aspire. As a good marketeer, the firm has branded their principles as Touchstones of Design(tm). So far so good.

But then they claim the following touchstone phrases as trademarks:
  1. Discover the Natural Order™
  2. Use Context to Create Identity™
  3. Let Culture Guide Design™
  4. Celebrate the Entry™
  5. Listen Closely™
  6. Stay Focused™
  7. Restrain the Ego™
  8. Design for People™
Give me a break. These are not trademarks -- they are part of the architectural ethos and express ideas every architect learns in school or in the first few years of practice.

But here is the best part -- The firm has the chutzpah to say, under the Design for People™ label:

"Truly great architecture
is not controlled by catchphrases 
of the time."

(Emphasis added.) Having listed eight catchphrases (nine if we count Touchstones of Design™, the firm tries to shrug off catchphrases. I am surprised they didn't put a ™ after "catchphrases of the time".

Use trademarks in moderation. Use too many and you start to look like you are trying too hard and maybe aren't as good as you claim.

Use trademarks wisely. Trademarks require protection. To secure the firm's trademark rights to "Listen Closely" or the phrases, the firm will have to monitor other businesses in their industry and pursue legal actions against violators.  This is a fight they will lose; an online search finds nearly half a million webpages that use "listen closely" in conjunction with architects or architecture.

Introduce your copywriter and your intellectual property manager. If your lawyer goes through a website aggressively flagging trademarks, make sure the copywriter doesn't badmouth catchphrases.

Ironically, the firm does not denote trademarks on items that are clearly trademarks, like its distinctive logo.