Letter trademarks? They have been around a long time. They may or may not be easy to remember and to protect. Many of these marks have a long history. B&M Baked Beans have been sold for a century. BMW cars almost as long. M&M’s have been with us since the 1940s, and L&M brand tobacco was launched in the 19th Century.
Today, it is not the trademarks that are letters. It is the products themselves. We are not talking about alphabet soup. Since the onset of the pandemic, two era-defining groups of products that exploded in market awareness are known by their abbreviations. In this corner, weighing in at you-cannot-live-with-me-and-you-cannot-live-without-me, we have the amazingly controversial mRNA. In the other corner, we have companies built around the easy-to-say-but-often-hard-to-understand NFT.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can be a barometer of sorts of business trends. The number of new applications for mRNA trademarks and registrations on file at last count now number 167. The number of applications pending for NFTs is even greater. How many more, you may ask? Try about 24 times more – almost 4,000. Big financial products related to investing, collectables, sports and entertainment seem to attract more attention than medical breakthroughs – a statement only about as shocking as UConn women’s basketball making another Final Four (14 straight) appearance. But from a trademark standpoint, NFTs are still where the action is, which is ironic because most people still have not actually bought an NFT, while a significant majority have had two or even three encounters with mRNA (shot one, shot two, and booster).
Since the time we all started to associate mRNA with the COVID vaccine, companies have launched or intend to launch hundreds of different products, and perhaps thousands that we do not even know about yet. The pandemic turned out to also be a good time to incubate a new collectibles/investment industry, led by creation and execution of the non-fungible token, the now ubiquitous “NFT.”
But while the usual suspects (the pharma/medical industry) are filing for mRNA trademark registrations, it seems like just about everyone else is trying to register an NFT. After all, the barriers to entry for NFT companies are almost nonexistent compared to what it takes to develop pharmaceuticals. The access to markets and ability to promote NFTs also has few barriers that cannot be overcome by websites, apps, and social media. How quickly are people jumping on board? The number of applications in 2020 was 38, which then jumped to 2,100 applications filed last year. So far this year, the number of applications is running over three times higher than 2021. (By the way, the applicants are overwhelmingly American.)
What about mRNA? Those products require testing, approvals, followed by marketing that needs to focus not just on the consumer at large, but on large, sophisticated organizations in the health care community. They will still, sometimes, advertise to consumers (as seen on TV).
So, the gold rush is in full swing for NFT trademarks. Names are going fast. If you are involved in mRNA technology, the urgency may not be quite so intense. But as always, the sooner you file, the sooner you lock in potential rights.