Designed to appeal and speak to the customers of a specific time and place, trademarks can become hallmarks of a bygone era.

The controversy surrounding the use of the REDSKINS trademark and logo shows just how much the public reaction to symbols can alter and shift over time.  In a decision now on appeal, the United States Trademark Trial and Appeal Board cancelled the REDSKINS trademark registrations, ruling that they were considered disparaging and offensive to approximately one out of three native Americans when they were registered.

Stepping back from this present day dispute, pioneer and native American symbology once captured the popular imagination in the early 20th century.  Businesses sought to capitalize on romantic visions of western expansion by adopting symbols recalling the Old West.  Once those nostalgic reference points lost commercial traction with consumers, these companies changed shopworn symbols of brand identity or perhaps the companies and products faded away altogether from the marketplace.

How many of us can now connect the following former trademark symbols referencing the Old West with their original producer and the products they were meant to brand? This brief reprise underscores how dynamic trademark symbols are in adjusting to the tastes and sensibilities of each new generation of American consumers.  Answers follow at the end.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

These trademarks were designed for the following producers and products: (1) Albers Bros. Milling Co., Portland Oregon, Corn Flakes; (2) Sandhill Fruit Growers Association, North Carolina; Fruit—Namely Peaches and and Apples; (3) The Keefe Packing Co., Arkansas City, Kansas; Barbecue Ham; (4) Hoyland Flour Mills Co., Kansas City, Missouri; Wheat Flour; and (5) Minneapolis Milling Co., Minneapolis, Minnesota; Wheat.[1]


[1] These trademarks are all featured in Trademarks of the 20’s and 30’s by Eric Baker and Tyler Blik (Chronicle Books 1985).

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Photo of Paul D. Swanson Paul D. Swanson

Paul Swanson’s track record speaks for itself: the World Trademark Review 1000 lists Paul as a top individual in the trademark practice, describing him as a “very smart IP litigator who brings decades of courtroom experience to the table.” He is the only Washington attorney to be awarded Lexology’s 2017 Client Choice Award in the field of trademark law.

Paul’s food/intellectual property law practice provides astute counsel regarding the intellectual property foundations of your food-related business ventures. His guidance is especially vital for agribusiness clients with intellectual property rights in formerly unbranded fresh fruit and vegetable produce. As the industry has shown, the reputation and goodwill of agribusinesses and foodservice companies is bound up in the quality of their products and services and the brand recognition generated through the diligent efforts of company employees and their predecessors.

Having worked on cases that now authoritatively control legal outcomes in matters of agribusiness commerce, Paul has a deep understanding of the complex legal issues faced by his clients. He regularly speaks on and writes about intellectual property issues and is principal contributor to the firm’s “Earth and Table” Law Reporter blog, devoted to analyzing the interplay between intellectual property and food commerce.

Paul is a Former Chair of the Washington State Bar Association’s Intellectual Property Section. He also chaired a WSBA/IP trademark committee whose work significantly revised Washington trademark law, and is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

Paul served as a Board Member of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, a community-based, nonprofit organization that operates seven farmer/food-only markets in Seattle neighborhoods. His article regarding the history and legal status of organic and natural food labels entitled “We Are What We Eat” appears on the website of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture.