Richard Branson Claims People May Confuse 'I Am Not A Virgin Jeans' With His Virgin Properties

from the er,-they're-saying-they're-not-virgin,-richard... dept

Forbes has an article about how lawyers representing Richard Brandson's Virgin property have sent a letter to "I Am Not A Virgin," a small jeans company in NYC, complaining about its attempt to register the trademark on its name in the US. The Forbes report falsely states that it's a copyright issue (seriously, don't people check these things?) and also seems to miss that the letter is about a planned opposition to a trademark registration. Peter Heron, I Am Not A Virgin's founder, put together an amusing video reading the letter and questioning Branson's claims:
My favorite bit is him asking if Branson thinks that people walking by "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" in the store are likely to be confused by it. In fact, you could argue that the likelihood of confusion (or dilution, since that's in play too) is extremely minimal here. Hell, the entire name of the company is claiming that it's not a "virgin," though I'd imagine that's a reference to the more common definition of the word, rather than Branson's widespread brand. Considering that one way companies often avoid tradmeark issues is to clearly state that they are "not affiliated" with a particular trademark, how much stronger of a not affiliated statement would Heron need than having the very brand claim it's not the other brand?

To be fair, the letter itself is much more on the friendly side of the spectrum, when it comes to legal nastygrams. It doesn't take a completely hardline stance, tries to express a common viewpoint (applauding the support for "the planet" and entrepreneurs), and even makes some (kinda silly) suggestions for alternate names ("I Am Not Chaste," "I Am Not Pure" -- to which Heron suggests "how about 'I Am Not Made By Richard Branson'). But, it doesn't go to Jack Daniels' level of friendliness, in making it clear that no change will lead the company to officially seek to have Heron's trademark (which he's had for 3.5 years) revoked by the USPTO.

It's also clear that Heron is milking this for all its worth as a marketing strategy (which is a pretty reasonable strategy, given the situation). But that raises more questions about why Virgin/Branson even went down this road in the first place. They had to know that they were just asking for a public shaming.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 7:32am

    That makes two Virgins fighting. What could possibly go wrong? *drools over mud/gel/whatever fetish wrestling between hot girls*

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 7:38am

    Virgin, Windows, Apple and more

    Virgin must abe a very complicated brand to manage these days. Megastores sold, music production company sold to EMI ater a pump-and-dump stunt buying the Rolling Stones catalog shortly before selling and whatever else... More seriously, those companies choosing a common word for their brand such as Virgin, Apple, Windows, etc... should be denied any ownership including in the commercial space.

     

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  3.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 7:39am

    Trademarks that use common words should be less exclusive than unique words. Specifically, common words like monster or virgin should be usable in the names of other companies as long as there is a meaningful link to the meaning of the word, it is not the same type of product, and it is used in a way that avoids confusion.

    Companies who use common words as trademarks have chosen a mark that has already suffered a form of dilution, and therefore their ability to claim exclusive use should be weakened.

     

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  4.  
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    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 7:45am

    Re:

    We could innovate on this.

    Hot girls wrestling in mud in a pool made of piezoelectric materials. The mechanical energy created could generate enough electricity to power my house lamp for 5 minutes.

     

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  5.  
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    Lord Binky, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 7:48am

    This is simple.

    This is just what happens when 1) Branson is bored 2) Branson spends too much time in the New Mexico desert.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 7:51am

    Branson seems deluded here...

    He's claiming that "virgin" is the same as "mercedes"?!?!

    Pop quiz - when was the last time you heard this conversation:

    "Hey man, did you finally do the deed with Veronica?"

    "No, I'm still a mercedes."

     

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  7.  
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    Tim Griffiths (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 8:21am

    Re: Branson seems deluded here...

    This is the main point, did your trademark have a meaning before you claimed it? If it did then you should have to accepted any use of the word that makes use of that meaning.

    I'm not a virgin makes sense in a world where Virgin did not exist. Now "I am not a virgin TV" makes a given amount of sense pre Virgin but makes significantly more sense post Virgin and as such I think could be argued to be a trade mark problem.

    That said I don't think trademarks should be given on single existing words full stop.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 8:29am

    said it before and i'll say it again. when Branson was flogging bootleg tapes and anything else to earn a shilling, he didn't give a shit about who he damaged or how. now he is so successful, like so many others, the 'worm has turned' and he has become as big an arse hole as others in his position

     

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  9.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 8:39am

    Tie-in to next article: Madonna's "Like a Virgin"

     

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  10.  
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    hfbs (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 8:50am

    Bransons explanation ("I Am Not A Pepsi" etc) is weak at best.. If I saw two items and they had a completely different font, typeface, logo, were a different whole damned product, I don't think I'd get confused and buy one, thinking it was a other. It's the case here as well. IANAV is using a standard sentence (questionable in itself.. I don't see how common sentences can be trademarked anyway.. I wonder if I can trademark 'I'm Drinking Tea' and 'I Shower Naked'?) so how can Virgin claim to own some of it?

    Of course, lest we forget, Virgin Cola:
    "Hey dude, buy me some cola, would you?"
    "Sure thing!" *buys Coca Cola*
    "No you idiot! I wanted Virgin Cola! This hipster party's ruined!"

    I think it's safe to say there was more chance of confusion there...

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    I am not an Apple.
    I am not a Harley.
    I am not an Otis.

    I can keep going. In each case, a major trade name was used, yet they do have OTHER meanings.

    Branson's company is right here. Trademarks need to be zealous protected, otherwise their scope may be limited and their use in the end termed generic.

    Personally, I took the t-shirt as a 1% type protest shirt, claiming not to be "the man". I got the Virgin media connection right away.

     

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  12.  
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    DOlz, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 9:29am

    Up next

    Richard Branson's letter to the Catholic Church over their use of The Virgin Mary.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 9:50am

    It's the new fad in the US. Register a name that looks alike a big company, then cry wolf over it. It's reverse-suing-everyone psychology in action and it's working great so far. But people will catch on and those crybaby trolls will die out on their own.

    Imagine the publicity the guy got with this stunt? Probably making tons of cash already. Lame.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 9:55am

    Re:

    Because "I am not able to think of a proper name, I'll use a known one then cry over it, make tons of publicity and money for myself and get the person complaining to be the asshole".

    I'm launching my company soon. I'll make millions.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 10:03am

    Re:

    So the letter's a fake you mean ?
    Ironically I tend to agree that Branson's lawyers unwantingly fed the troll with their seemingly overreaching legalese...

     

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  16.  
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    hfbs (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re:

    There's a difference between protecting your trademark and pretending you own a common word and all iterations, meanings and uses of it.

    Personally, I took the t-shirt as a 1% type protest shirt, claiming not to be "the man". I got the Virgin media connection right away.
    And I personally didn't. I took it to mean 'I have had sex before'. What now? What if there is no Virgin Media connection? What if the guy actually did mean 'I have had sex before'?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 10:44am

    but if virgns dont fight this terrorist win, do you not understand that

     

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  18.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re:

    That's geek fun for you. Well done, dear sir.

     

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  19.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 11:12am

    Trademarks only cover a particular domain

    The article above doesn't say, so does anyone know what domain the "I am not a virgin" trademark is registered in, and what domain(s?) the "Virgin" group's trademark is registered in?

    Does Virgin sell clothes?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 11:25am

    Forbes seems more and more like a blog at this point. It's like they rarely check any of their sources.

     

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  21.  
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    Robert Doyle (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 11:56am

    Re:

    Ummm... one of them was clearly not a Virgin ;)

    (And isn't it kinda funny how the actual Virgin here is the one doing the phucking...)

     

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  22.  
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    Francisco George (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 12:01pm

    Yes the Strings are the same

    The Strings in vogue are very faraway in the background of Vogue but yes they are the ones of Salsoul.

     

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  23.  
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    Robert Doyle (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Re:

    Get your head in the gutter and out of the trademark/copyright/blah blah blah

    I also don't think you can buy those jeans as it would be false advertising - only a 40-year old virgin would not think of the sexual reference immediately (wait - can I make a legitimate reference that happens to now be the title of a movie or because they made a movie I can no longer use that phrase? So Dazed and Confused about this... crap! I can't be both of those at the same time anymore either! Fuck this, I'm going to Whitecastle... damnit!)

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 12:35pm

    The one that will REALLY get you in trouble:

    "I am not Anonymous."

     

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  25.  
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    Togashi (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 1:17pm

    Re:

    So if I started a company called "I Am Not A Monster", which company would you be trying to claim I was doing that with? Could I be claiming I'm not an overpriced cable? Or perhaps I'm saying I'm not a slightly disgusting energy drink?

    Or maybe, just maybe, I'm saying I'm not a bad person. Gee, it's almost like some words have meaning outside the corporate landscape!

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    My nephew goes to catholic school, and is in "The Virgin Club". I wonder if they will be sued soon?

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 2:27pm

    I was planning on visiting Branson, Missouri, but I got confused and visited Richard Branson instead. I oughtta sue him.

     

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  28.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 5:12pm

    Re: Re:

    Hot girls wrestling in mud in a pool made of piezoelectric materials. The mechanical energy created could generate enough electricity to power my house lamp for 5 minutes.

    Won't work. Who needs a house lamp when you have two hot girls wrestling in mud.

    I'll be in my bunk.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 5:45pm

    Re:

    As if members of something called "The Virgin Club" don't have enough problems to deal with already.

     

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  30.  
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    Dave (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 6:29pm

    He's only Human

    The human brain has a wonderful facility for masking rationality. It's called the EGO. Somebody dared to use HIS word, and must stop or pay. What does he do about the Olive Oil companies, or, better, the Catholic Church?

     

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  31.  
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    Lennart Regebro, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 1:13am

    It's nice that Richard Branson gives all this extra advertising to this small and previously unknown jeans company. I assume that this means he is not planning to get into clothes anytime soon.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 1:17am

    Re:

    No, it's a fight between a virgin and a declared non-virgin, and already the virgin is looking neither pure nor chaste.

     

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  33.  
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    Dave, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 2:49am

    Re: Trademarks only cover a particular domain

    Does Virgin sell clothes?


    That's what I'm wondering also. Unless I'm not searching hard enough, I can't find any indication of the Virgin Group of Companies selling clothes under the Virgin brand either.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 3:28pm

    There's a saying...

    Any business with Virgin in the title ends up f****d in the gutter.....

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 3:29pm

    Re: Re:

    funniest point about Monster cable, is that it's run by a bunch of self-serving scum that are closer to qualifying as monsters than human beings.....

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 3:31pm

    I'm waiting

    Memo to Richard Branson....

    Sue Al Qaeda for promising "72 Virgins" if you blow yourself to bits in a public place.....

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 3:39pm

    I always thought that Virgin Media was about Madonna!
    Who Knew!

     

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  38.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Re:

    Trademarks need to be zealous protected

    Holy Guacamole! I heard fucken beeps come out when you said that.

     

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  39.  
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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I just realize MAFIAA might be made up of Borgs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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