Campbell Soup Co. has trademarked the word “chunky” in a surprise ruling from the US Patent and Trademark Office.
The ruling will now allow Campbell’s Chunky to include ® next to the word on its packaging.
As part of its submission, the company highlighted its £1 billion-plus spend advertising soup products under the ‘Chunky’ umbrella since 1988.
This was supported by further evidence, including an online survey that found strong consumer association for the worlds “chunky” and “soup”.
It also highlighted a successful sales period between 2004-07, where sales of Campbell’s Chunky came in at over $450 million and further evidence submitted was an
While that’s all standard for a trademark filing, Campbell Soup Co. broke with tradition and included several non-corporate references that ranged from animated sitcoms, to topical news shows and even hip hop.
Speaking to Food and Drink International, John Coldham, partner at law firm Gowling WLG, said: “It’s always difficult to get descriptive words granted as trade marks, but Campbell’s seems to have achieved this in the US.”
He said: “The basic rule of trade marks is that they have to be distinctive of the company that owns the trade mark, not a descriptive word used to describe the nature, kind or quality of the product itself.
“Otherwise, it would prevent competitors from describing their products freely. Where this becomes difficult, however, is when a brand is known for a descriptive word. If the brand can show that it has “acquired distinctiveness” in the word, it may be granted as a trade mark.
“That appears to be what happened here – Campbell’s provided evidence of consumers in the US using the word CHUNKY extensively to identify the Campbell’s soup, so the US registry has granted the trade mark.
“If this had happened in the UK, would it mean that competitors could describe their soups as chunky anymore? No, but they would have to be careful.
“If the competitors were to use “Chunky” in a purely descriptive sense, such as “try our chunky vegetable soup”, then it would be difficult to prevent such use.”