Sriracha Boss On Trademark: Mmmmm, No Thanks

from the techdirt-hero dept

Sriracha, the beautifully flavorful pepper sauce, has a very special place in my fridge, right between the bloody mary mix and the hollandaise sauce. Why? Well, because it bunks with the other breakfast essentials in the Geigner household, that's why. Where else can you find Sriracha? Well, pretty much everywhere else, even incorporated in the products of other food companies, like Subway, Heinz and Frito-Lay. How is this possible? Through, as you might expect, a complicated series of licensing arrangements?

No, it's possible because David Tran, the boss at Sriracha makers Huy Fong Foods, never filed to trademark the Sriracha brand. And he can't be bothered to give any shits about trademarking it today because he's too busy raking in roughly all the money.
Tran, who now operates his family-owned company Huy Fong Foods out of a 650,000-square-foot facility in Irwindale, doesn't see his failure to secure a trademark as a missed opportunity. He says it's free advertising for a company that's never had a marketing budget. It's unclear whether he's losing out: Sales of the original Sriracha have grown from $60 million to $80 million in the last two years alone.

"Everyone wants to jump in now," said Tran, 70. "We have lawyers come and say 'I can represent you and sue' and I say 'No. Let them do it.'" Tran is so proud of the condiment's popularity that he maintains a daily ritual of searching the Internet for the latest Sriracha spinoff.
It's as though Tran were channeling a Techdirt writer with this kind of stuff. The infringement others want him to combat is instead seen as free advertising, propelling sales and spurring on growth coupled with a good-humor attitude towards "rip-offs." We'd accuse him of infringing on our playbook, but that just wouldn't be in the spirit of the example he's setting. Tran goes on to note his belief that more exposure through use of his product's name will mean even further growth.

Some competitors of Tran are confused, and it's kind of funny to hear their reaction.
Tony Simmons, chief executive of the McIlhenny Co., makers of Tabasco, said Tran's Sriracha sauce was the "gold standard" for Sriracha-style sauces, which has largely come to mean any dressing that packs a piquant punch of chili paste, vinegar, garlic and sugar. Simmons was reassured by his lawyers that Tabasco would have no problem releasing a similar sauce using the name Sriracha.

"We spend enormous time protecting the word 'Tabasco' so that we don't have exactly this problem," Simmons said. "Why Mr. Tran did not do that, I don't know."
Well, because he's too busy being the "gold standard" of the thing you're trying to get it on using his brand's name. This means that Tobasco, in this case, is advertising Tran's product for him, all the more so when his is admittedly the best around. How is Simmons not getting this? And the best part of this is that the USPTO has already issued several decisions stating that the single word "sriracha" on its own is now too generic for any of these pretenders to trademark for themselves. Chalk up another victory for Tran, who allowed the use of his brand name so widely that he's effectively protected against someone trying to come along and lock it up.

Well done all around.

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  • icon
    Drawoc Suomynona (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:06pm

    "Chalk up another victory for Tran, who allowed the use of his brand name so widely that he's effectively protected against someone trying to come along and lock it up." - A novel way of looking at the loss of Mr Tran's once valuable trademark to genericide.

    "Tran goes on to note his belief that more exposure through use of his product's name will mean even further growth." - It surely will mean more growth, and hopefully Mr Tran will see some of that growth himself. Hey, as long as Mr Tran is happy, good for him.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:33pm

      Re:

      The sales of the original sauce (his) have gone from $60mil to $80mil in the last 2 years. That's a 33% increase.

      I'd say he's doing just fine.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:37pm

      Re:

      Maybe you can trademark your own brand of Jelly and prove to us how it's done properly.
      Maybe call it "Jelly Much"

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

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:37pm

      Re:

      A novel way of looking at the loss of Mr Tran's once valuable trademark to genericide.

      What once-valuable trademark? He never had one, by choice. Did you not read the top half of the article?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 3:03pm

        Re: Re:

        Of course he did. Although the article talks about not "securing a trademark", a trademark is something you develope through use, and he almost certainly had a common law trademark until he allowed the term to become generic. The fact that he ever obtained a trademark registration (which is what I assume was meant by the article text) doesn't change that.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 4:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          A brand is something you develop through use, a trademark is a very specific thing. Something he most definitely did not have.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:44am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I'm willing to admit that my "of course" and "almost certainly" qualifiers might be a bit over the top, if people in the U.S. actually viewed "sriracha" as a style of sauce, rather than just a name used for the sauce produced by Huy Fong.

            But why do you think me "most definitely" did not have a trademark?

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

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 11:39am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            A brand is something you develop through use, a trademark is a very specific thing. Something he most definitely did not have.

            Are you unaware of how common law trademarks work, or arguing that he definitely did not have a common law trademark? If the latter, why do you think so?

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

      • icon
        Drawoc Suomynona (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:51am

        Re: Re:

        One doesn't need to file an application for the use of the term to be considered trademark use, regardless of how the esteemed Mr Tran viewed the name. He created a unique product, put a name on the product, consistently sold the product under that name, and in time his customers came to identify the name with this product of a certain flavor and quality - boom, a trademark is born.

        Now once Mr Tran allowed others to use the same name on their products of varying quality and taste, customers could no longer trust that the name identified Mr Tran's unique product, and now his customers have to look for Mr Tran's unique label design and/or bottle shape, both of which Mr Tran has protected with trademark filings and does seem to defend consistently and regularly.

        So yes, Mr Tran had created recognizable tradeamrks in his brand name, label design and trade dress, but he has chosen to allow his word mark to become generic and only defend his other IP.

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    • icon
      amoshias (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 2:03pm

      Re:

      "A novel way of looking at the loss of Mr Tran's once valuable trademark to genericide."

      Well... you clearly don't understand what the world genericide means... what makes you think that you know better than Mr. Tran about the "value" of any potential trademark?

      "It surely will mean more growth, and hopefully Mr Tran will see some of that growth himself. Hey, as long as Mr Tran is happy, good for him."

      What your sneering tone doesn't really seem to pay any attention to is the fact that we have evidence that not getting into the trademark game is working for Mr. Tran. You don't have to say "hopefully" he'll see some of that growth. He's seeing a huge amount of it. Did you read the article?

      Oh wait, you're just a troll. And I fell for it. I lose an internet.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 3:06pm

        Re: Re:

        Tran may believe allowing free use of SRIRACHA is a better idea than fighting to preserve exclusive rights, but that doesn't mean he thinks that the term or exclusive rights to the term is not valuable. Don't go assuming you know what Tran thinks better than somebody else does in your effort to show that others shouldn't think they know better than Tran does (how's that for clarity?).

        As far as growth goes, it is impossible to tell whether that growth would have occurred at a faster, slower, or unchanged rate had he opted to protect/enforce trademark rights.

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "As far as growth goes, it is impossible to tell whether that growth would have occurred at a faster, slower, or unchanged rate had he opted to protect/enforce trademark rights."

          Yes, but that's unimportant. The company is experiencing excellent growth. That's all that matters.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:47am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That is not all that matters when evaluating whether the "not getting into the trademark game is working".

            If he would have experienced 100% growth with a strong, protected trademark, then I think it's wrong (or at least misleading) to say that that this strategy is working.

            It's like saying that, because the U.S. has experienced significant economic growth and technological innovation, our patent system is great. Well, maybe we would have had better growth and innovation with a different system, or no system.

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

            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 9:14am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "That is not all that matters when evaluating whether the "not getting into the trademark game is working"."

              We disagree. He decided not to get into the trademark game, and his company is showing healthy growth. It's obviously working.

              "If he would have experienced 100% growth with a strong, protected trademark, then I think it's wrong (or at least misleading) to say that that this strategy is working."

              We disagree about this as well. It's only the purest of speculations that he could have had greater growth, but let's say that he would have. Even so, that doesn't mean that the strategy isn't working. In order to know that, you have to know what his goal is. If it's to maximize growth at any cost, then no, it's not working. However, that may not be his goal at all (and I suspect it isn't). Perhaps his goal is to have a profitable company that operates according to a specific ethical code. Or perhaps his goal is to have a profitable company while avoiding certain unpleasant entanglements such as suing people.

              You can't really say if a strategy is working or not without knowing what it is he's trying to achieve.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 1:23pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I don't think it's intellectually consistent to use growth as a standard for measuring whether something is "working", and then say you can't use growth as a measuring standard for whether something else might "work" better.

                Also, is this the royal "we"?

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

                • icon
                  John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 2:36pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "I don't think it's intellectually consistent to use growth as a standard for measuring whether something is "working", and then say you can't use growth as a measuring standard for whether something else might "work" better"

                  That's not inconsistent at all. In fact, the exact point that I'm making is that Tran's benchmark for what is or is not working may not be solely based on how much growth his company is experiencing. Unless growth is the sole thing that he's aiming for, a different approach that may increase the rate of growth may not in fact work "better".

                  "Also, is this the royal "we"?"

                  No, I meant "you and I".

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

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:04pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    I agree that you can't know what's working if you don't know what the goal is. But, by that logic, there is no basis to say his trademark strategy is "working" simply because of growth numbers.

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

      • icon
        Drawoc Suomynona (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:07am

        Re: Re:

        Ouch, amoshias, I was going for sarcastic, not sneering, and I actually like TD a lot so what you see as trolling I see as trying to widen the perspective here and spread some info. I have no idea how much Mr Tran knows about trademarks, but I do know enough to hold my own.

        And while Mr. Tran has allowed sriracha to roam free in the world, bless his heart, to say that he is not "getting into the trademark game" would be incorrect. Mr Tran's still brands his products with label graphics and a bottle shape that are protected by registered US trademarks.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hey man, if you challenge the TD groupthink, you're gonna be labeled a troll by at least some commenters. That's just how it works around here.

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

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 9:44am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Only if you can't do it in a mature and civil fashion.

            Also, what's with the 'groupthink' myth, I don't know about you, but I've read enough articles and comments on TD that it's abundantly clear that while people may share similar general stances on some subjects, when you get down to the details, there is plenty of differing opinions.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 1:27pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I have never seen the Drawoc Suomynona name here before. But everything he's posted here has been mature and civil; much more than the average TD comment, in my view.

              Sarcasm and snark won't get you called a troll around here *unless* you express a view contrary to the dominant TD position (I acknowledge that not everybody here agrees with every detail on every issue; after all, I'm here).

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

    • icon
      Nop (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 8:35pm

      Re:

      "A novel way of looking at the loss of Mr Tran's once valuable trademark to genericide."

      You can't lose something you never had, genius.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:08am

      Re:

      "A novel way of looking at the loss of Mr Tran's once valuable trademark to genericide. "

      But that hasn't happened. If you say "Sriracha" to pretty much anybody, they'll think of Mr. Tran's sauce specifically. For other brand that uses the name "Sriracha", the consumer expectation is that it has Mr. Tran's sauce in it.

      Sriracha only means one specific sauce to people. That's the opposite of genericide.

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

      • icon
        Drawoc Suomynona (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:35am

        Re: Re:

        Sorry John, I'm not sure I understand. Sriracha had once meant only one specific sauce to Americans, but that now no longer holds. With others using the term, it now generally describes a type of chili sauce. Is that not the same as Frisbee, or Asprin, or Thermos?

        I guess you could say the loss of Mr Tran's once valuable trademark to descriptiveness?

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        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 9:17am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "but that now no longer holds."

          It certainly holds in my part of the country. I don't know of anybody who sees "Sriracha" and thinks of it as a style of sauce. They think of it as a specific sauce (and is called colloquially "cock sauce"). The the name is applied to other products, literally everyone thinks that the product is claiming that it includes that specific sauce.

          Perhaps things are different in your area.

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          • icon
            nasch (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 11:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Same here, I didn't even know there was any other kind of Sriracha other than "rooster sauce" until I read this. And I just checked and my bottle says Huy Fong Foods, Inc. Hooray!

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 1:28pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Are you sure that is the current feeling, even with Jack in the Box, Subway, and all sorts of huge national outlets using "sriracha" without any connection to Huy Fong in the last year or so?

            Even if so, I doubt that lasts much longer.

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            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 2:39pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Are you sure that is the current feeling, even with Jack in the Box, Subway, and all sorts of huge national outlets using "sriracha" without any connection to Huy Fong in the last year or so?"

              Yes, I'm as close to completely certain as is possible. Everybody assumes that if "Sriracha" is being mentioned, it's this guys' sauce specifically being used. If that's not the case, then people will be very angry at these chains.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:06pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Certainly some commenters here say otherwise (that "sriracha" refers to a style of sauce, like ketchup, not a particular brand/source). Your view, which used to be my view, may still be true for a lot of people, or even the majority, but that's not going to last if Huy Fong does not change strategy (which it appears they have no intention of doing).

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

        • icon
          ltlw0lf (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 11:03am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I guess you could say the loss of Mr Tran's once valuable trademark to descriptiveness?

          Maybe, but like John, I see Sriracha and I immediately think of "Cock Sauce" (because of the giant rooster on the packaging.) I tend to use a lot of it, and like Mr. Geigner, it holds a special place in my refrigerator.

          French's produces a Worcestershire sauce (which actually sucks, if you buy it thinking it is Lea & Perrins, a Heinz company, Worcestershire sauce.) When someone talks about Worcestershire sauce (or embalming fluid, thanks South Park,) I immediately think of Lea & Perrins, not French's brand Worcestershire.

          It may be that it is what most of us grew up with, and that in the future, French's Worcestershire might replace Lea & Perrins as the version everyone thinks of, but I think it is still a description of specific brand and not a general sauce.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 1:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I think you are probably an outlier w/r/t worchestershire sauce. I've never known anyone who thinks that term refers to a specific brand.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:49am

        Re: Re:

        Not anymore it doesn't.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:07pm

    In this day and age when everyone tries to trademark everything, even single words, finding someone who doesn't do it and profits by not doing so is a rare thing. The only thing that is left to say in my opinion is *slow clap* Well done Sir *slow clap* Well done! *Chapeau!*

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:26pm

      Re:

      ...someone who doesn't do it and profits...



      We need more of this.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 2:11pm

        Re: Re:

        We need more of this.

        Yes, we do. But the other side seems to tempting. Lawyers, national press and all the PR it brings with it. Yet the human thing (which was done in the articles case) is so humbling in comparision that few will do it.

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

    • icon
      madasahatter (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 7:51pm

      Re:

      Truthfully, even without a trademark the company name will probably suffice for customers. Aspirin was once a US trademark but is the generic term for product and customers do not seem to be confused by it. The goal of trademarks is to protect customers for being confused by knock off products.

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 11:44am

        Re: Re:

        Aspirin was once a US trademark but is the generic term for product and customers do not seem to be confused by it.

        Not only that, but Bayer still somehow sells a bunch of the stuff.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:13pm

    Packaging

    He did trademark the logo and packaging showing he does understand customer confusion. If you want thereal stuff, you know what to look for.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:34pm

      Re: Packaging

      Hear, hear! That is what trademarks are for!

      Got a cool rooster logo you want to make sure competitors can't use, trademark it!

      Have a genuinely distinctive bottle with a fun green cap? Trademark it!

      You want to make sure that no one anywhere in the world can call a particular condiment by one of its actual names? No sale!

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      • icon
        crashsuit (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 3:27pm

        Re: Re: Packaging

        Yes, exactly. The guy makes great sauce and runs a great business, but Sriracha sauce exists in hundreds of varieties, and was around for decades before he came here and founded his business. Trying to trademark Sriracha would be like trying to trademark the word ketchup, soda, cars, or jeans. That said, his is one of my favorite Sriracha sauces.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 3:35pm

          Re: Re: Re: Packaging

          For years and years, I viewed "sriracha" as synonymous with the sauce produced by Huy Fong, and I think that's true of most U.S. consumers that were familiar with sriracha. Only after unlicensed use by others in the U.S. did I come to view "sriracha" as a style of sauce rather than as a sauce produced by a particular source.

          In that sense, it is not like ketchup at all (or at least it wasn't).

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

          • icon
            Drawoc Suomynona (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Packaging

            Yeah, me too.

            "Sriracha" may well mean "chili sauce" in other places, but not here, and with use over time, Mr Tran most certainly gained the "acquired distinctiveness" that would allow the registration and protection in the US of what may be a descriptive term in other places.

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          • icon
            crashsuit (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 1:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Packaging

            In most Americans' heads, Sriracha sauce is equivalent with Huy Fong Foods brand Sriracha, but just because most people here had never heard of any other type of Sriracha before doesn't mean they didn't exist, and it doesn't make those other brands infringing for using the word Sriracha. Please not I am *not* criticizing Huy Fong Foods or their Sriracha sauce in any way - I admire the fellow and his company, and his sauce is great.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:12pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Packaging

              "...and it doesn't make those other brands infringing for using the word Sriracha."

              That's where we differ. If the vast majority of the relevant market views a term as a source identifier (i.e. a brand or trademark), rather than a generic or merely descriptive term, due to its use in commerce by a single source, then it *is* a trademark from a legal perspective (at least in the vast majority of cases).

              Now, conceivably, they could be using "sriracha" in some manner not likely to cause confusion, even among those who view "sriracha" solely as referring to the sauce made by Huy Fong. But at least some people (e.g., John Fenderson, above) thing that people are likely to take use of "sriracha" to mean that the product is or is using Huy Fong sauce. That's infringement.

              I think we are in a period of change right now where he conceivably could still bring a claim because enough people still view "sriracha" as referring to Huy Fong's sauce. But that will not last long as more and more people use "sriracha" to refer to producst unassociated with Huy Fong.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 6:53pm

      Re: Packaging

      Bingo. Cock sauce is the only real Sriracha.

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

  • icon
    yankinwaoz (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:37pm

    City name

    What is funny is that he didn't trademark it because he didn't think he could trademark a city name.

    Tabasco, the sauce, is named after the Tabasco peppers that came from the state of Tabasco in Mexico. So really, the sauce is named after a place. Yet, it is trademarked.

    He is a smart guy. Letting the Tabasco Corp run all of those expensive ads for him.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 2:13pm

      Re: City name

      Letting the Tabasco Corp run all of those expensive ads for him.
      But the Tabasco Corp also profits from his work. Others might want to profit from their work even if they would feel stupid to trademark a state or a city/place name.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 3:22pm

        Re: Re: City name

        "But the Tabasco Corp also profits from his work."

        I disagree. The Tabasco Corp profits from putting sauce in bottles, and selling them. The money is in the work, not the idea. Lots of people don't get that.

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      • icon
        Nop (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 8:41pm

        Re: Re: City name

        "But the Tabasco Corp also profits from his work."
        So what? He's making tens of millions of dollars a year, so why would he care? It amazes me that so many people think that success alone isn't enough, as though it doesn't count unless you're bankrupting your competitors as well. It's a big market, there's enough room for everyone to do good business.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 4:51am

        Re: Re: City name

        Way to miss the point.

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

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 12 Feb 2015 @ 2:23pm

    I prefer Shark Sriracha. More of a base vinegar flavor.

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  • identicon
    BuggyBumper, 12 Feb 2015 @ 2:28pm

    Hmmm

    You mean you don't call it cock sauce?????

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  • icon
    AH2014 (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 2:42pm

    Tran is awesome

    David Tran is a very savvy guy and an interesting person. If you go take a tour of the factory there's a great chance you'll actually meet him. But if you don't know upfront what he looks like you won't know it, because he doesn't make a big deal out of who he is, he just likes to keep his finger on the pulse.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 6:00am

      Re: Tran is awesome

      have we found the only 'real' human bean in korporate amerika ? ? ?
      MAJOR props to Mr. Tran, a standup mensch...

      while i use louisiana hot sauce some (hmmm, 'louisiana'? how did that get through the trademark?) i buy it 'cause it was the cheapest hot sauce bottle on the shelf; i am going to seek out and buy some of his sauce JUST BECAUSE he's shown us to be a great guy...

      thank you, Mr. Tran !

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 2:45pm

    You put Sriracha in the fridge? Ugg!

    I've tried srirachas from other brands. It just doesn't taste the same. Which why I'm sure most buy the real deal.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 3:30pm

    According to wikipedia sriracha is a generic name for any sauce like that. So trademarking it would be like trademarking "ketchup" or "catsup" or "mustard" or "relish" or "mayonnaise."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sriracha_sauce

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 3:37pm

      Re:

      But I don't think it was always viewed like that in the U.S. Just like most U.S. consumers don't think (or at least didn't think) that "champagne" refers only to sparkling wine made in the champagne region of France.

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

  • identicon
    Nicholas Weaver, 12 Feb 2015 @ 3:50pm

    One thing to note...

    Mr Tran did not come up with the name Sriracha: that town in Thailand is known for a homemade paste pepper sauce. Its different from Tran's famous Red Rooster sauce, but the name Sriracha is not original, so trademarking it would be questionable in the first place.

    Instead, he's trademarked what counts: The bottle shape. The Red Rooster. Etc.

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

  • identicon
    David, 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:59am

    To be fair

    $80mil/yr is literally peanuts in the condiment industry. You need more than that to feed your legal department alone.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 1:39am

    Happened here with a brand called Catupiry. They make a special type of creamy cheese I have yet to see on other countries but they don't bother when pizzerias and other brands use their name to describe their product. So instead of "creamy cheese" this type of cheese is known as catupiry. And while there are brands that are as good such as Scala or Tirolez when you think "creamy cheese" you automatically associate it with Catupiry.

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

  • identicon
    Beech, 13 Feb 2015 @ 2:24am

    CEO of Tabasco: "Hey guys, can you believe this clown? He's spending all his money on making a great product instead of marketing and defending trademarks! What a nincompoop, I can't understand such nonsense! Please ignore the fact that his sauce is quickly supplanting the swill I make in refrigerators across the country."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 6:32am

    I will think of this article while I'm eating a Valentine's Day pepperoni pizza with my wife.

    Nothing kicks a slice up a notch like a good dose of rooster sauce.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:37am

    Well, this article now has me wanting to try it! More free advertising!

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

  • icon
    Andrew Lopata (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 9:13am

    Registration with the USPTO does NOT make a trademark

    This story is interesting but could have been much better if it didn't perpetuate the myth that registration of a trademark is equivalent to ownership of trademark rights. As others here have noted, one does not need registration to acquire trademark rights. In fact, (with limited exceptions) one must prove that one has a trademark before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will register a mark.

    In the United States, one acquires trademark rights by using a trademark in commerce. Registration provides benefits for enforcement but does not create trademark rights. This is why cancellation of the Redskins USPTO registrations (almost universally, and erroneously, reported as cancellation of the "trademarks") does not mean that the football team cannot enforce the "redskins" trademark. It only means that they lost (or will lose if they lose their appeal) certain benefits that come from federal registration.

    There is much confusion among the public about the way trademark law operates. Techdirt generally does a much better job than most media outlets at explaining such issues but could do better.

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

  • identicon
    J Van Epps, 13 Feb 2015 @ 4:34pm

    Sriracha

    If you look up Sriracha on Wikipedia you see that the word is generic in South East Asia as the word ketchup is here. It just is not a word you could patent. However, his label is patented. If he is getting attorneys telling him he could patent the name Sriracha, either he or they are liars.

    Why exactly is Mr.Tran being congratulated for not doing something he could not not do anyway?

    Tobasco Sauce is different, Tobasco Sauce is not a phrase which predates the product, which is the difference between calling something a cola vs. calling something Pepsi.

    If you are going to congratulate Mr. Tran, I want you to congratulate me for not copywriting the word 'mustard.'

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:21pm

      Re: Sriracha

      You can't patent a word, no matter what. As far as trademark goes, something that is generic in southeast asia can still, potentially, be protectable as a trademark in the United States.

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

      • identicon
        David, 14 Feb 2015 @ 9:06am

        Re: Re: Sriracha

        Last time I looked, you could trademark perfectly common English words like "Apple" in the U.S.

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

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 14 Feb 2015 @ 9:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Sriracha

          Last time I looked, you could trademark perfectly common English words like "Apple" in the U.S.

          As long as they're not merely descriptive. Apple computers are OK, and they can keep others from making electronics called Apple. Apple brand apples on the other hand, is a non-starter. You couldn't trademark the word Apple to sell fruit, and then prevent anyone else from using "apple" to describe their product.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2015 @ 10:02am

          Re: Re: Re: Sriracha

          Of course common English words can be trademarks in the U.S. It depends entirely on their usage.

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

  • identicon
    FETHI, 6 Jan 2016 @ 12:27am

    sriracha

    I do not think Mr Tran can register the TM's for the word Sriracha. Remember, this word is the name of a region in Thailand were a certain chili is grown.., and used in a sauce along with sugar , vinegar...

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


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