In an attempt to beat competitors to the punch, consumer goods giant Proctor & Gamble filed for trademarks on “LOL”, “OMG”, and “WTF” back in April. There is much speculation regarding how the phrases will be used, and several people have questioned if it is even possible for such things to be trademarked.
The short answer is yes, it is possible for P&G to trademark our beloved short speak.
No need to worry though! You can still use the unavoidable shorthand in verbal or written communication without the fear of being sued. The trademarks have not yet been granted; even if they are, you can still LOL your way through the workday.
According to Ronald Coleman, Chairman of the Intellectual Property and Brand Management Practice Group at Mandelbaum Salsburg: “We always have to understand the difference between taking ownership and having a monopoly on a name or phrase and having exclusive rights to use a phrase or a word in connection with a certain product.”
What this means is P&G would only have exclusive rights to use the popular phrases in regard to selling certain products. When it comes to commercials and packaging, only P&G would be able to brand their products using the phrases.
So, when P&G is granted the trademarks (is your legal team going to be the ones to challenge them?) we can all expect the everyday products we know and love to take on a new attitude.
My only hope is this doesn’t become annoying. I can only describe the decision as testing some dangerous waters. I say this because, in today’s online world, one mistake or misstep is all Twitter needs to turn you into a 3-day trend – and not the good kind of trend.
Using this type of language could make the products (and in turn, the brand) seem more relatable or attainable, but it could also backfire and make the target market roll their eyes. If there is one thing Millennials are good at, it is detecting when something is too forced. Good luck to Proctor & Gamble in their efforts, because only time will tell if they truly know how to talk to the under-30 crowd.