Travelers Insurance Rains Down Trademark Disputes Over Any Use Of An Umbrella Anywhere

from the all-wet dept

Pop quiz, buck-os! True or false, a billion-dollar insurance industry giant and a miniscule human resources consultant in Alaska are competing in the same industries and marketplaces? You said false? Hmm, in that case, try this next one on for size. Are you able to tell these two company logos apart from one another?


Were you able to tell the difference between the two? Yes? You weren't confused by the fact that both company logos included an umbrella? Or the fact that both logos had, you know, words? Then congratulations, you did better than the legal team at Travelers Insurance, currently standing behind the threat letter they sent to Norm Denison, owner of Human Resource Umbrella LLC in Anchorage, Alaska over the use of the umbrella in his logo.

“Why is some big corporation picking on some little person in Alaska who doesn’t compete with them?” Mr. Denison recalls thinking. The property-casualty insurer has gone to great lengths to stop other companies from hoisting umbrellas as logos. Since 2007, Travelers has challenged at least 30 trademark applications across a range of industries, according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records. Among its targets have been a California program to improve children’s health, an antivirus software firm, a Polish nutritional-supplement producer and even the umbrella-making Totes Isotoner Corp. It also has gone to federal court to protest rival insurers’ umbrella use.

“Mary Poppins might want to consider lawyering up,” quips Randy Maniloff, an insurance-industry attorney with White & Williams LLP.
Stop giving them ideas. Travelers predictably declined to comment beyond claiming that it is operating within the law surrounding trademarks, which is absolute nonsense. There has to come a time when those of us that pay attention to these stories stop allowing the blanket assertion that trademarks must be protected or lost as a catch-all excuse for corporate douche-baggery. Valid trademark infringements must be protected against, not any trademark likeness in any small way. What Travelers has done is to assume that it owns the right to put an umbrella in a logo. That's simply incorrect. But, because of Travelers' size, it has the ability to bully smaller companies in unrelated industries, and all just for fun I suppose, because an HR consultant in Anchorage just simply isn't a threat to the insurance giant. Hell, there's nothing particularly special about an umbrella in a logo anyway.
Travelers is an unusual case because it is asserting a degree of ownership of a generic item that also is a popular symbol of protection and other qualities that a range of businesses want to promote, say some brand experts and lawyers.

“So what’s next? Requesting that Rihanna issue a disclaimer that she’s not referring” to insurance when she sings her “Umbrella” hit? asks Missouri-based trademark attorney Morris Turek.
Stop giving them ideas. The post goes on to list several other victims of Travelers' trademark strong-arming, as well as to note that the umbrella logo only became the property of the company in 2007, long after it had spun off of Citigroup. And, while it paid Citigroup an undisclosed sum for the logo, that doesn't give Travelers' the right to pretend like umbrellas are theirs and theirs alone.

Now, both Travelers and Denison have since resolved the "dispute", with Denison agreeing not to put a red umbrella in his logo (oh, the horror if he had) and to agree not to use his logo to promote insurance services, which, again, he's an HR company, not an insurance company. All this trading paper, emails, and lawyer-speak to arrive at the same conclusion as you did in the opening of this post: the two companies aren't in the same industry and the logos aren't all that similar. Thanks for the huge waste of everyone's time, Travelers...


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  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 1 Jun 2015 @ 4:19pm

    Shame on HR Umbrella

    Look everyone, notice how TRAVELERS has capital letters, well HR Umbrella also has Capital Letters, that alone should be enough evidence of Trademark confusion. I bet HR Umbrella also infringed on TRAVELERS patents on using Capital letters in words to reference something that people can use to reference something. Of course while using or not using a computer/technology. Yeah that is so patented by them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2015 @ 4:19pm

    I knew Umbrella corp was bad...

    Apparently this is how it all starts... we've all seen the resident evil movies to know how "Umbrella" corporations end up.

    The only solution is to prevent all umbrella's from existing.

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 1 Jun 2015 @ 4:53pm

    And they use the letters A and E

    When will the infringement end? First they dared to use an umbrella in their logo and now they have the gall to use the letters A and E!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2015 @ 4:57pm

    On the way Down

    Seems to me that the first indication of the imminent collapse of a company is random violent attacks on everybody around them, especially in the patent/trademark areas. Could Traveler's be headed down? Sounds like it.

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

    • identicon
      Dirt Mgirt, 7 Jun 2016 @ 11:19am

      Re: On the way Down

      Actually Travelers is doing awesome. They are making record profits. So you are wrong. Also they have low rates and great service.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2015 @ 5:44pm

    I sort of want to start a company that insures umbrellas now

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

  • icon
    Bob Webster (profile), 1 Jun 2015 @ 6:05pm

    Vote with your Dollars

    I have just removed Travelers from my list of acceptable insurance companies. I'm sure it won't have a significant effect on Travelers, but it makes me feel better.

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

    • identicon
      PRMan, 2 Jun 2015 @ 10:41am

      Re: Vote with your Dollars

      I did this years ago after the way they treated my parents, but yes, the only way this kind of nonsense goes away is if everyone votes with their dollars.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2015 @ 8:21pm

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/rRwcBx2.jpg[/img]

    Morton may have something to say about it.

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 1 Jun 2015 @ 11:16pm

    Maybe they can issue a claim over the umbrella corporation in resident evil.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Howard (profile), 1 Jun 2015 @ 11:46pm

    No need to worry

    Well, good luck picking on Umbrella Co.

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

  • identicon
    mmbb, 2 Jun 2015 @ 12:31am

    ☔☔ sue me next! (btw, those were two emoji umbrellas in case they didn't display properly).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 6:00am

    Waste of time?

    Thanks for the huge waste of everyone's time, Travelers...


    I'm sure the lawyers who bill by the hour didn't feel it was a waste of time.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 8:37am

    Sounds like a new insurance company needs to be created that offers other companies insurance against being sued for trademark infringement. I think I could come up with a logo for that.

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

  • identicon
    harga toyota avanza, 12 Oct 2015 @ 3:52pm

    Sounds like a new insurance company needs to be created that offers other companies insurance against being sued for trademark infringement. I think I could come up with a logo for that.

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


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