Specsavers recently filed a successful application to trademark the word ‘should’ve’. They also secured the rights to its misspelled form, ‘shouldve’. This prevents anyone from trying to copy their famous slogan: “Should’ve gone to Specsavers”.
This means that if other businesses were to use ‘should’ve’ in marketing materials, Specsavers might have grounds to sue them. Companies in completely different industries may be safe, but retail or optician services would need to watch out. For commercial purposes, Specsavers has ownership over the verb.
It’s an interesting move for the optical retail chain, but not all that surprising. Specsavers’ adverts have been popular for years. The brand has always been protective over their marketing. Asda launched their optician service with the tagline, “spec savings at Asda”. They subsequently ended up in a six-year legal dispute with Specsavers. Specsavers also attempted to trademark the oval shape to protect their logo.
What’s The Big Deal With Trademarks?
Trademarks have always been important for businesses. They are often used for brand names and product names. They are also used to protect marketing materials, such as slogans, logos, and signature sounds.
There are many slogans that big name brands have trademarked for advertising purposes. Famous examples include Adidas’ “Impossible is nothing” and Burger King’s “Have It Your Way”. This stops other companies from trying to benefit off the popularity of another company’s slogan.
Trademarks aren’t only valuable to big corporate chains. Even small businesses often trademark their name from the get-go to avoid any problems further on down the line. There are even attorneys who focus on trademark law. Xavier Morales has filed over 5,000 trademarks for all kinds of industries.
What’s In A Word?
This isn’t the first time a brand has trademarked a single word. Compare The Market trademarked the term ‘simples’ in 2009, a popular term used by their meerkat mascot. Carlsberg own the trademark for the adverb ‘probably’.
Even though they are single words, if they become associated with a brand’s marketing closely enough, they may be able to snatch ownership. Even made up words can be a valuable asset. Twitter had to fight to trademark the word ‘tweet’, even though they created it themselves!
The trend is likely to continue in the future. With brands showing they can claim ownership over a word, they could become valuable commodities for businesses. Companies will have to be careful which words they decide to use in advertising materials!
Owning the rights to a word may seem a little dictatorial. A BBC article had one lawyer calling Specsavers’ move “astonishing.” The power over a commonly used verb was described as a monopoly.
While they may have the legal rights to the word, most companies probably needn’t worry. If Specsavers were to take any business who somehow used the word to court, this could damage their public image. It’s most likely they would only raise disputes to stop any outright rip-offs of the “should’ve gone to Specsavers” slogan.
It appears they could’ve also trademarked the word ‘would’ve’. Whether they should’ve is another question.