Chanel, the fashion house beloved by women all across Sacramento, recently sought a trademark for its fragrance, "Jersey."
A spokesman for the company said the name was meant to evoke the soft, free-form fabric that Coco Chanel helped popularize. Before Chanel, it was not a widely used fabric, but today, of course, it's very commonplace.
However, the U.K. version of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the trademark application. The reason? "Jersey" is also the name of an island in the English Channel between England and France, and geographic names generally cannot be trademarked.
Chanel has not publicly commented as to what its next move will be.
Although this story comes to us from England, it's a similar situation here in California and the rest of the U.S. Generally speaking, generic terms and geographic names cannot be trademarked. No one could make a fragrance in the U.S. and call it "Sacramento" for example, because that is not distinctive enough. A trademark serves to distinguish one producer's goods from those of other producers, and a name that's so broad, like "Jersey," does not serve that purpose.
Trademark law may not be as straightforward as you might think. This is just one example of the law's particular peculiarities. If you have a business and want to avail yourself to trademark protection, it might make sense to seek out an intellectual property attorney who can advise you. Such attorneys often have the necessary experience and know-how to get you the legal protections you seek.
Source: The Daily Mail, "Sweet smell of success: Jersey residents win victory against Chanel after perfume company tried to trademark island's name," Sara Smyth, June 3, 2013