Is it possible to trademark a common word such as “How?” That is the question in a recent case involving Greek yogurt manufacturer, Chobani, and author Dov Seidman. Seidman penned the book “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything,” which describes how companies can create more ethical cultures. Founded in 1992, Seidman’s company, LRN, works with businesses to improve the ethics within these firms and help them create sustainable cultures. However, Chobani recently has created an ad campaign featuring the quality of its yogurt—with the slogan “How Matters.” Seidman also uses this motto and now seeks to sue the company for trademark infringement. He claims Chobani has stolen his “How.” Yet, it seems unlikely that he will succeed as trademarks usually are granted to words that have no ordinary meaning or are used in an unusual way. Similarly, trademark is meant to protect against customer confusion not the protection of business ideas. Therefore, Seidman will need to show that consumers will have difficulty distinguishing between the yogurt company and the consulting firm. If Seidman is successful, the use of trademark may expand greatly.
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