Fashion Week and Portfolio Mining
Who am I kidding? Of course I watched the new Tim Gunn show, though I’m not convinced yet and am really desperate for the return of Project Runway. While I no longer consider myself the fashion maven I once was (at least by lawyer standards), I’m still fascinated essentially by the fascination the topic holds for many. Plus, as always, the brands! Well, that pedicure time turned me on to yet another brand of which I wasn’t aware: Burberry Prorsum.
When I saw this mark in a magazine, I said to myself, in the immortal words of my daughters, “what the hukey?”[i] A Latinate term that sounds like a remedy for a gastric malady, or worse, the malady itself? My curiosity was piqued, and toes lacquered to perfection,[ii] I returned home to investigate.
Turns out Burberry has done an exemplary job of maintaining and mining its portfolio: The PRORSUM mark has been a word element of Burberry’s registered trademarks since, believe it or not, 1913: The banner the horseman is holding says “PRORSUM” on it. Who knew? Burberry has owned permutations of this registration for years. Some have been based on use, others on 44(e). One way or another, they’ve kept the PRORSUM element alive and protected by registration for clothing and accessory items. PRORSUM, by the way, means “forwards,” and a translation appears in some, but not all, of the records of its registrations.[iii]
A quick bit of research reveals that Burberry severed the PRORSUM name from the banner and adopted it as a separate line somewhere around 1999. From the buzz I’ve read in various sources, it’s quite a hot label.
And that’s something I really don’t understand, because the name is clunky as all get-out: hard to pronounce and not easy on the eye. Besides making me think gastric malady, it’s also reminiscent of pablum and Postum.[iv] Why, then, do I commend Burberry for selecting it? Simple: They made it easy on their trademark attorneys. They have had a lock on the mark for nearly a century, it’s not descriptive, their earlier registrations cover pretty much all the goods they’d want to branch out in with the separate PRORSUM mark, and they can claim ownership of all their prior registrations.[v] Plus, they know that their expansion of its use shouldn’t traverse anyone else’s rights, as they’ve been on the record with the mark for so damn long.
I guess it’s a leg up that foreign companies can have by virtue of their 44(e)-based registrations: They can hold on to marks in the US forever without having to show use if no one challenges the registration on abandonment grounds, and at some point years down the line, decide “hey, we’re looking for something catchy, what do we have in the vault that we can revive?” Sometimes, like Dorothy, you don’t need to look any further than your own back yard. I really do appreciate that counterintuitive branding ingenuity.
Still, I can't help feeling that rather than wear PRORSUM, I need to discuss it with my physician to see if it will help my seasonal allergies.