Crayola – Trade mark Dilution
Crayola has filed a law suit against Alex Toys LLC for trade mark infringement.
The defendant has been producing and selling crayons with the name ‘Crayola’ printed on the sides and on the box.
Crayola dates back to 1905 where the wife of the co-founder invented the word as a combination of “Crai” meaning chalk in French and “ola” short for “Oleaginous”, together meaning oily chalk. It has been known as this ever since. In the century that they have been trading, two hundred billion crayons have been sold and 3 billion have been produced each year.
The plaintiff owns 20 trade marks that use the word Crayola and argues that Crayola is a famous trade mark, which people instantly recognise as the name for crayons. The danger here is that the name has become so famous that it is known as the generic brand for crayons.
The plaintiff claims that the unauthorised use of the mark dilutes its distinctiveness; they argue that because the mark is printed on the side of the infringing crayons people believe that Crayola is another word for crayons.
Having a trade mark that has become a generic term can be very problematic for the trade mark holder as the mark can no longer be used to establish the origin of the product. Genericide as it is otherwise known is a serious problem in the realm of trade marks as the brand becomes a victim of their own success.
Examples of other brands that have fallen victim to this problem are: Hoover, Jacuuzi and Frisbee are some of the most famous victims.
The effect of genericide means that protection in the mark is lax and fails to operate as a trade mark. A recent example of this was between Tiffany and Costco. Costco began selling ‘Tiffany engagement rings.’ The term has now become so generic that the ruling of the court decided that it is a generic name that exists in the mind of the customers.
Will this happen to Crayola? We can only wait and see.