Earlier this year, Smith & Hopen partner Nicholas Pfeifer wrote an article about the return of the Ford Bronco. Since then, the hype surrounding the new 2021 Ford Bronco has continued to grow. This time with the revelation that the Ford Motor Company (Ford) filed a trademark application for WARTHOG. The WARTHOG application for “[l]and motor vehicles. . .” teases a possible powerful new addition to the famous Bronco line-up. In addition, automotive blogs have suggested the WARTHOG will be a Raptor substitute for the high-performance version of the Bronco.
Benefits of Filing a Trademark Before a Product Launch
An ITU application permits the applicant, such as Ford, to essentially reserve trademark rights. Because preparing for a product launch can take months or years, reserving a trademark helps prevent competitors from swooping in and taking the mark from under you.
Typically, rights in a trademark vest when the goods or services are first sold or rendered in interstate commerce. This priority date is important when asserting or defending your trademark rights against a third-party, such as a competitor. However, in the case of an ITU trademark, once the application matures into a registration, the filing date if the ITU application serves as constructive notice. As a result, the filing date of an ITU application becomes the priority date, rather than the date of first use.
However, to file an ITU trademark, the applicant must have a bonafide intent to use the mark in commerce. Typically, this is easily satisfied. In the case of WARTHOG, Ford simply needs an intention to use the mark on a land motor vehicle in the future.
Ford, like many companies, uses trademarks to their advantage. Filing trademarks early and often helps give companies a competitive advantage. ITU applications are also examined by the trademark office allowing applicants to know in about 3 – 4 months whether their mark is deemed confusingly similar to another pending or registered mark.
Furthermore, ITU application can be a source of publicity for the company as well. In the case of Ford, several automotive blogs monitor the trademark database, searching for recent filings. In particular, automotive blogs jumped on the new Bronco filing when it appeared.