The Business of Creativity

Houchin Consulting PLLC

Response to a Higher Ed Communications Listserv Question

Posted on | April 6, 2006 | No Comments

I posted this this morning in response to a question on a Higher Education Communications Professionals Listserv….  I thought it would be helpful here…

Trademark is about marketing – it’s about protecting the brand equity and good-will and investment in an “indicator of source” in a particular market. The goal is to protect consumers from confusion as to the source of the product or service.

To make a long story short – it’s a subjective question.  A “merely descriptive” statement like “educating tomorrow’s leaders” CAN eventually become an indicator of source if you can prove the slogan is actually associated with your institution in the marketplace. We call this establishing “secondary meaning.”  Accordingly, “Explore. Experience. Excel” is more “arbitrary” when connected to an institution, and easy to qualify as a trademark right from the start.

Higher Education is about differentiating your product.  In some ways, it’s harder than most consumer-goods branding because, in many cases, higher education is a seen as a commodity – like bread or beer, and the only way to truly distinguish your school from others is by:

1.  Actually having a different product (programming). That’s hard due to the nature of accreditation, and the culture of higher education itself.
2. Communicating the few actual differences you DO have effectively.
3. Becoming memorable based on those distinctions.

Obviously, there are whole books written on the subject of TM, going into all the fine distinctions between different situations. I’m not going to cover all of that in this, or any other, email.

The important thing is to come up with something that’s truly original, register it (you can file an “intent to use” registration before the slogan shows up in the market), and then USE it.


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