I know it’s been a while since I’ve added to my collection of ridiculous trademark oppositions, so here’s one that I came across today that I think you’ll find amusing. It comes courtesy of a well-known insurance company that really likes it when it rains because of all the free advertising it gets from people trying to stay dry.
On July 21, 2009, an insurance company by the name of Guard Insurance Group filed a trademark application seeking to register the mark shown below for “underwriting services for property, casualty, accident and health insurance, excluding insurance underwriting in the field of professional liability and directors and officers liability”:
As explained on its website, Guard provides a wide range of commercial property and casualty insurance products for small and medium-sized businesses. One of those products is commercial umbrella insurance, and as you can see in the lower-right portion of the trademark, Guard has incorporated a highly stylized depiction of an umbrella within its overall mark (which honestly looks more to me like a mushroom than an umbrella).
Well, just this past week, The Travelers Indemnity Company (which is known by most people as simply “Travelers”), filed an opposition against Guard’s trademark application on the basis that it is likely to cause confusion with the following trademarks for which Travelers owns federal registrations:
I don’t know about you, but I think Travelers has driven off a cliff in bringing this ridiculous opposition. Granted, Travelers has been using its umbrella logo for 50 years in connection with insurance services and the logo has certainly become well-recognized by consumers throughout the United States. Heck, I might even be on board with Travelers’ allegation of likelihood of confusion if the umbrella in Guard’s mark was significantly more prominent and even looked like an umbrella rather than a fungus. But, as it stands, when the marks are compared in their entireties (which is what’s required under the law), I would bet a serious amount of dough that 99% of Americans would agree that Guard’s trademark and Travelers’ trademarks look nothing alike and have very distinct commercial impressions.
But, as you might expect, Guard is not the first to have its trademark application opposed by Travelers. Over the years, Travelers has filed oppositions against many applications for trademarks that include an umbrella design, some of which are not even for products or services related to insurance. For example, Travelers has challenged applications for:
In addition, Travelers opposed an application for the mark GOT UMBRELLA? that was filed for “insurance brokerage in the field of auto, home, and business.” Even though the owner of the trademark application expressly disclaimed exclusive rights to the word “UMBRELLA” (since the term is clearly generic when used in connection with providing umbrella insurance coverage), that didn’t stop Travelers from challenging the application and getting a default judgement.
So what’s next? Travelers trying to stop an umbrella manufacturer from using the word “umbrella” or an umbrella logo as part of its trademark? Requesting that Rihanna issue a disclaimer that she’s not referring to purchasing insurance in her very generous musical offer to “stand under my umbrella?” Soon, you’ll need Travelers’ permission to even own an umbrella and you’ll pay a licensing fee every time you use it.
If that’s the case, I think I’ll stick with a raincoat.