Fluid trade marking.

Changing of the guard

People typically think of trade marks as being static 2 dimensional brands with which consumers develop a familiarity over time. Enter contemporary marketeers and a trend towards energising brands by making them less static and more engaging. This trend is captured by regularly changing ‘fluid trade marks’. Let’s explore this new wave of dynamic trade marks.

More than a periodic update of a static mark, fluid trade marks may use:

  • moving designs;
  • multiple designs;
  • ornamentation of the mark;
  • changing backgrounds; or
  • reinterpretations in different media.

These changes typically retain certain features of the underlying mark, but include new refreshing design elements. The term may be unfamiliar but the likelihood is that you have already seen a fluid trade mark. The most ubiquitous fluid trade mark is the ‘Google doodle’, which creates and displays variations of the Google logo on the Google homepage.

Google Doodles

Many other formidable brands such as MTV, Absolut, Nickelodeon and Louis Vuitton have also refreshed their brands by using fluid trade marks.


Google doodle is lots of fun

Since Google Doodle’s launch in the late 1990’s it has become increasingly elaborate and interactive with time. Google has:

  • used it to mark significant anniversaries, historical milestones and holidays; and
  • embedded playable games within it.

The permutations are virtually limitless. Where brand identity used to be based on consistency, here is one of the world’s most renowned and recognisable brands that scrambles and adapts its logo on a regular basis.1

Time to call time on the logo?

Fluid trade marking is undoubtedly parting ways with traditional trade marks and provides a more fun and vigorous concept. One of the main reasons for adopting a fluid trade mark is to maintain brand interest in a market saturated with brands all competing for attention. It can effectively engage the target audience by developing and strengthening the emotional relationship, with more fluidity.

It is not all fun in the world of fluid trade marks. So let’s take a look at some dangers in engaging in a strategy like this:

  • if your trade mark is weak, departure from the registered trade mark may require enhanced protection;
  • such a strategy may toy with the elements of the brand and weaken its image;
  • inconsistent use could undermine the distinctiveness of the original trade mark; and
  • recognition and use of the original trade mark could be compromised.

Above all, before considering a fluid trade mark the brand in question must have a strong and recognisable trade mark that can handle experimentation and change.

Uncharted waters

With no specific case law on fluid trade marks, and few mentions of the phenomenon in literature, there’s little direction on how to protect fluid marks at law and use them to their best effect. Whilst these are somewhat uncharted waters for intellectual property rights, surely the fluid trade mark will continue to push the boundaries in this digital age.

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1For further examples of Google Doodle, see http://www.google.com/doodles

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Intellectual Property

Posted on: 12 February 2015