PayPal Sues Pandora Over Yawn-Inducing Logos And Tweets About People Opening The Wrong App

from the zzzzzzzz dept

We're going to jump right into this one without too much of a preamble, other than a quick refresher on what trademark law is designed to accomplish and what triggers a concern for infringement. The idea behind the law itself is to allow companies to utilize unique identifiers, be it name or branding, in order to distinguish itself from competitors by monopolizing those trademarkable items. The chief concern regarding infringement, therefore, is real or potential customer confusion in the marketplace as to the source of a particular product or service. With that out of the way, let's have some fun discussing how a recent lawsuit filed by PayPal against Pandora gets just about everything wrong with respect to the above preamble.

In October 2016, Pandora announced it was redesigning its logo from a thin, serifed "P" into the chunky, sans serifed "P" that it is today. The color scheme was also changed from midnight blue to a softer shade of blue. By comparison, PayPal's logo, active since 2014, also features a minimalist-looking "P" in a sans serif font and sporting a blue color palette. PayPal's mark actually consists of two overlapping and slanted "Ps," whereas Pandora keeps it to one. Both P's lack a hole.

It's over these two logos that PayPal has filed its lawsuit. Here they are, side by side.

Are they similar? I mean, maybe, but only as a function of how minimalist and non-unique each are. Each logo chiefly consists of a blue "P", except one logo has a single "P" and the other has two "Ps" of varying blue-ness and then slants them. As far as ingenuity into a logo design goes, it's not exactly Rembrandt. If you choose to make your identifying branding for your company as blasé as this, what exactly did you expect?

But the problems don't end there. The lawsuit itself is rife with examples of what PayPal insists are customer confusion in the marketplace. Here's an example.

Except that isn't really the sort of confusion that trademark law is supposed to deal with. The interest is in keeping the public from mistaking the origin of a product. That isn't happening in the examples in the filing. Once the music starts playing when a person intended to use PayPal to pay for something, it's not as though that person begins thinking that Pandora suddenly is handling payment processing requests. What those social media posts are really pointing out is that the logos used in each products' app aren't sufficiently unique to be easily identifiable. Coupled with the fact that Pandora and PayPal don't actually compete with one another, the angle of customer confusion as the basis for a trademark infringement is rather head-scratching.

But the larger point is that for trademark law to fulfill its original purpose, names and branding need to be unique. If companies choose not go the unique route, it shouldn't be possible for them to then bludgeon non-competing companies over the head with their trademarks.


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