Trademarks Live.

The Lincoln Futura: Car enthusiasts will remember this concept car from the 1950s.  Television enthusiasts will remember that it was the basis for the Batmobile from the Adam West “Batman” series.

Register Trademarks

Trademarks Die.

In 2005, Ford (owner of Lincoln) wanted to name a new car line the Futura.  The problem?  Ford (and all subsidiaries, such as Lincoln) hadn’t used the Futura name in years (50 years, to be exact).

Trademarks Return.

Pep Boys makes and sells Futura-brand tires.

What was Ford’s problem?  If Ford and Pep Boys – which are both in the automotive industry – would that not cause consumer confusion?   Would Futura tires be made specifically for the Futura car?  (No.  But we know that there would be consumers who would think so.)  Therefore, the two companies are in industries that are economically related.  There are recent Firestone commercials that state that Firestone is a car company that does not make cars.

There are over 250 registered “futura” trademarks in the USPTO database.  So, in other industries, the mark is not an issue.

In order to reclaim a “dead” trademark, a new company must wait for three years of non-use of the mark.  Pep Boys registered the “Futura” mark for tires in 1990.  This means that even though one is tires and one is automobiles, because their industries are similar and the consumers are similar and the goods would appear in similar (even if not the same) sales channels, the marks conflicted.

Ford, unable to use “Futura,” went with “Fusion.”  Anyone who is extremely knowledgeable about cars or is European (or, like me, has European friends) knows that Ford didn’t really help itself because the Fusion in the Americas is not the same car as the Fusion sold in Europe.  That’s a problem, though, for a different entry.