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Picture this: Silicon Valley venture capitalists are rushing to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to claim newly registered dot-com Internet addresses as trademarks. Wall Streeters are seeking trademark protection for the names of new investment funds. Asian companies are looking to expand their U.S. market share by developing their own consumer brands. As a result of all this frenzied activity, the trademark office is approaching an all-time high in trademark applications filed. What year is this � 1999? While the description certainly fits the situation seven years ago, it applies equally well to trademark trends in 2006, when the technology and financial services industries partied like it was 1999. In fact, they outdid 1999: New applications in 2006 exceeded the number filed in 1999, and came within a whisker of the all-time record high set in 2000. A closer look at the filing data shows that the same factors that drove the boom in trademark applications before the turn of the century were driving demand in 2006. While much has changed in seven years, the current trademark landscape bears a surprising resemblance to the one just before the dot-com bubble burst. The late 1990s cycle of economic expansion and recession demonstrated that the demand for new trademark applications uncannily reflects larger economic trends. Each new application represents a potential brand name, logo or tag line for a new business, product launch, line extension or ad campaign. By examining trends in filing volume, one can get a sense of whether companies are feeling optimistic or pessimistic about the public appetite for their products and services. In the late 1990s, the Internet land rush and the bull market on Wall Street produced a flood of new trademark applications. The symmetry between trademark filings and the overall economy was best evidenced by the fact that applications hit an all-time high, never again rivaled, in March 2000, which was the same month that the Nasdaq Composite index reached its peak. Will history repeat itself? Perhaps not, because the trajectory of the current boom in trademark applications is very different from the last. The overall increase in filings during the last four years has been marked by a gradually rising tide � a 5% uptick in 2003, 10% in 2004, 4% in 2005 and 5% in 2006. That’s a very different trend than in the gold rush days of 1999, which saw applications leap by 32% in a single year. When the bubble burst in 2001, the boom in new filings also popped, falling by 23%. Wherever the roller coaster peaks this time, perhaps the downward descent won’t be quite as sharp. The investment management sector had a heyday in 2006, with new applications far outpacing the overall growth in trademark office filings. [See chart.] The real estate boom of recent years has also been reflected in U.S. trademark applications, with filings for products and services related to real estate increasing by 25% in 2005 (from approximately 4,200 to 5,250) and topping 6,000 in 2006, a leap of 14%. It’s interesting to note, however, that as the real estate market deteriorated in 2006, so did interest in real estate-related trademarks. Applications in this category fell by 3% from the first to the second quarter of 2006, fell by another 7% in the third quarter and declined by 9% in the last quarter. For those not willing to gamble on the stock market or housing prices, casinos continued to be a good bet: Applications for trademarks for casino services increased by 25% in 2006, with well more than 900 filings. While financial services set a torrid pace in 2006, technology was close behind, with new applications increasing at a far faster pace than the overall 5% increase. For example, applications for products and services related to the Internet grew by 27%, increasing in a single year from 14,200 to just more than 18,000. Telecom-related filings jumped by 13%, from 4,600 to 5,200. Applications for computer hardware, software and computer-related services were up by 9%. Companies once again showed a renewed interest in using “.com” as a part of their branding: Applications for marks incorporating that suffix increased by 21%, from 2,400 to 2,900. Other tech buzzwords were also prominent in new products and services: Applications for “wireless” goods and services rose by 19%, from more than 4,200 to 5,000, and the word “digital” appeared in the description in nearly 7,800 applications, a 12% rise from the 6,900 filings in 2005. The emphasis on green in 2006 wasn’t just about money � with rising consumer awareness of global warming, marketers’ interest in “green” as a trademark element also increased. Applications for marks containing the color zoomed up by 37% in 2006, following a 23% increase in 2005. In contrast, filings for “red” and “blue” marks barely increased, while brands containing “black” were somewhat more fashionable, increasing by 10%. Curiously, the color “yellow” also saw a boomlet, but much of the increase was due to a surge in filings for marks containing the phrase “Yellow Pages.” Interest in the word “clean” went hand-in-hand with “green,” increasing by 17%. Showing a similar increase were marks containing some form of the word “environment,” often linked together with another buzzword (e.g., “Enviro-wipe,” Envirobaby,” “Enviromint”). “Energy” was also popular, appearing in almost 900 new filings, an increase of 31% from 2005. “Hybrid” was increasingly common in trademarks for many products, not just vehicles, increasing by 23%. Does all this mean that marketers think consumers will view conspicuous consumption as less fashionable? The numbers suggest it � applications for marks containing the word “small” were up by 13% in 2006, while “big” and “double” were down by 7% and 11%, respectively. Great leap forward for China The vast majority of applications filed with the trademark office come from companies with U.S. addresses, with domestic applicants outnumbering foreign ones by a ratio of 85 to 15. Canada, Japan, Australia and the larger Western European markets have traditionally been the source of the largest number of non-U.S. applications. Chinese companies have traditionally been a source of relatively few U.S. applications, but the number has increased dramatically in this decade, nearly tripling in three years. In 2003, companies based in China filed about 500 applications. The next year the number grew to more than 900, and in 2005, it exceeded 1,100. The pace continued in 2006, with another 25% increase, as applications exceeded the 1,400 mark. This growth marks the emergence of China as a source of branded products, not just a manufacturer of other companies’ products. Applications from China now well exceed the number filed by companies based in South Korea and Taiwan. Filings were heaviest in the electronics/computer, apparel and automotive classes. Most of them were for marks that signal that the products have a Chinese origin, often because the mark includes Chinese characters. In a few instances, however, the applicants have adopted marks with a distinctly American feel, e.g., “Longhorn,” “Freeway” and “East Main.” Glenn A. Gundersen is a partner in the Philadelphia office of Dechert, the author of the International Trademark Association’s book Trademark Searching (2d ed. 2000) and a co-author of the book Intellectual Property Assets in Mergers and Acquisitions (John Wiley 2001).

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