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A Guide to the Most Recognizable and Successful Trademarks

Trademark is a symbol, design, phrase, word, or combination of these elements that is used to identify a good or service. It is used to distinguish a company from its competitors within the marketplace. A trademark identifies the source of a good or service, provides protection for the brand, and helps to guard against counterfeiting and fraud. It's a common misconception that a trademark means that you legally own a particular word or phrase, but in reality, a trademark only protects the use of a word of phrase in relation to a specific good or service. Most large brands have trademarks that are recognizable and can be easily distinguished from those of other companies.

Starbucks

  • This multinational chain of coffeehouses was founded by Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker on March 30, 1971, in Seattle, Washington. However, the first trademark for the brand wasn't filed until 1976, covering the company's original logo.

  • As the brand has grown and more Starbucks locations have opened, more trademarks have been filed. Currently, their siren logo is one of the most recognizable logos in the world, but Starbucks also owns trademarks on the color green they use on their logo and on terms related to their products, such as "venti" and "frappuccino." Their trademarks apply to cups, mugs, canisters, and, of course, coffee.

  • Since 1987, Starbucks has added an average of two stores per day to its list of worldwide locations, and by 2020, it had reached 32,646 stores around the world, with most customers visiting a Starbucks store an average of six times a month. However, about 20% of the customer base visits an average of 16 times a month!

McDonald's

  • McDonald's is an international fast-food chain based in America with almost 39,000 locations worldwide. The original family restaurant opened in San Bernadino, California, in 1937 and was taken over by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1940. At the time, it was called McDonald's Bar-B-Q. It took eight years for them to realize that burgers were the most profitable item, and once they realized that, the rest is history.

  • The world-famous golden arches symbol was the company's first trademark, and it came from the design of one of the earliest McDonald's locations. The arches were intended to catch the attention of drivers, and they eventually became part of the chain's logo.

  • Many McDonald's registered trademarks were introduced during the 1960s, such as the Filet-O-Fish in 1963 and the Big Mac in 1967. Other trademarked items include the Happy Meal, the McChicken, the Quarter Pounder, Chicken McNuggets, and the McMuffin.

Apple

  • Apple Inc. is an American technology company known for its trademarked products like the Mac Pro, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. Apple has been on the cutting edge of the tech scene since the company was founded on April 1, 1976, by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne.

  • The first Apple registered trademark was for Wozniak's Apple 1, which was a desktop computer that launched the company into notoriety. However, as the company grew, so did the power struggles between the executives. This led all three original creators to leave and pursue other projects.

  • Steve Jobs returned to the company in 2000 and sparked a second wave of popularity by creating recognizable products with a simple design. His efforts led to popular trademarked products and services like the iPod (2001), iTunes (2003), and the iPhone (2007).

Walmart

  • In 1962, at the age of 44, Sam Walton was driven to create Walmart with the goal of owning and operating a store that offered low prices but excellent service. His idea drove him to reach a level of success beyond expectations, and by 1970, Walmart went public with shareholders. Today, it has more than 4,700 stores in the United States and more than 11,500 stores worldwide.

  • Throughout the years, Walmart has applied for more than 2,800 trademarks, such as "Equate," "No Boundaries," and "Great Value," and the retailer is continuously filing new trademark applications.

  • Walmart may not have the most noticeable logo, as it has gone through multiple changes over the years. Currently, it is spelled out in all lowercase letters with a yellow sunburst at the end known as "the spark."

Target

  • In 1962, Douglas Dayton, owner of the Dayton Company, had a vision of opening a store that offered high-quality items at low prices while still providing excellent service. Walmart was just starting to gain momentum at the time, so Dayton's goal was to establish an environment that would exceed its quality through service, merchandising, and branding.

  • Target's first trademark registration was a bull's-eye logo that contained three red circles with white spaces between them to serve as the background of the "Target" word mark. The logo has changed slightly since then to make it more legible, but it kept the same feel; today, the logo consists of two red circles and one white circle and is separate from the word "Target."

  • Today, Target has a net worth of more than $62 billion and owns hundreds of trademarks for store-specific brands such as Cat & Jack, Art Class, and Xhilaration.

Amazon

  • Amazon was originally called Cadabra, though that name only lasted a few months before the Amazon moniker stuck. The company was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, and originally, the online retailer only offered books. But Amazon grew and evolved to dominate the world of e-commerce, bringing in billions of dollars every year with no sign of slowing down.

  • As Amazon evolved, so did its logo. The original logo featured a large stylized A, with the space inside of the letter shaped to resemble a river and the words "Amazon.com" placed beneath. Today, their logo consists of the word "Amazon" with an orange arrow beneath going from the A to the Z, suggesting that the store sells everything from A to Z. Even though this logo was created in 2000, it wasn't approved for a trademark until 2003.

  • Over the years, Amazon has become more than just an online store and has been a driving force behind the new technology. For example, they developed drones called "Amazon Air" to deliver packages and filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark this phrase in September 2016. Another innovation that has been trademarked is Alexa, a the voice-activated personal assistant. Alexa was approved as an Amazon trademark in September 2018.

Kodak

  • Kodak has a long history in the photography industry that began when the company was founded in 1888. It started by selling inexpensive film, chemicals, and paper, and its business model at the time made it possible for them to have an 85% stake in camera sales by 1976.

  • In 1975, the company created the world's first digital camera, but they were slow to invest in developing and growing this technology, and other companies stepped in to fill the void. This missed opportunity proved to be their downfall, as it led to Kodak's bankruptcy in 2012. The company was forced to sell $500 million worth of patents.

  • Currently, Kodak has more than 40 live trademarks, but they've had hundreds of others that have expired over time because the company has been in business for so long. Their first trademark filing was in 1911 for the name "Kodak" as associated with cameras, lenses, and attachments. Currently, they have trademarks registered for phrases they use in marketing, such as "Perfect Touch" and "Kodak Moment."

Facebook

  • Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his college dorm room in February 2004 as a casual way to communicate with his fellow classmates. It became an overnight success, with 1,200 Harvard students joining within 24 hours of the initial launch, and within a year, it had expanded to a larger audience with a new domain name. By 2007, the company was valued at $7 billion, and it was the largest social media network.

  • Facebook owns more than 230 active trademarks, from nicknames for the brand like "F" and "FB" to different social media features like "Facebook Ads" and "Facebook Poke."

  • To go along with their rebranding, Facebook filed to trademark the word "Meta" on March 31, 2022, in a variety of contexts, such as clothing, water bottles, tote bags, umbrellas, stationery, alarm clocks, and jewelry. At the same time, it also trademarked its new "Meta" logo, an infinity sign, in the online social networking sphere.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

  • Goodyear was founded by Charles Goodyear in Akron, Ohio, in 1898. Goodyear was the inventor of vulcanized rubber, which is created by a chemical process that improves the physical properties of synthetic and/or natural rubber by giving it higher strength and resistance to swelling and abrasion. Since the creation of the company, Goodyear has sold tires for vehicles of all types and is currently NASCAR's sole tire supplier.

  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber is a Fortune 500 company that has become one of the most recognizable advertisers in the United States. They sold 39.6 million tires in 2019 alone through tire shops and automotive repair centers.

  • Since they've been in business for more than 100 years, the company has a large intellectual property portfolio, with more than 350 trademark applications having been filed since 1906. Their first trademark was a "Good Year" logo registered in association with rubber heels and soles for boots and shoes. Since then, they have filed trademarks for tire names, slogans, and new variations of the Goodyear logo.

FedEx

  • FedEx began as an idea in a college assignment by Frederick Wallace Smith. His 1965 Yale term paper was about creating a quick delivery system designed to help the economy. In 1971, he went into business using planes to ship items; in 1973, his company would begin operating as Federal Express.

  • The first FedEx logo was registered in 1973. At the time, the logo was red, white, and blue with the words "Federal Express" inside of it in slanted letters. In 1994, the company shortened its name to FedEx and adopted the violet and orange color scheme still used today.

  • Since FedEx has five different branches (FedEx Express, FedEx Custom Critical, FedEx Ground, FedEx Services, and FedEx Global Logistics), they've filed for hundreds of trademarks for their logos as well as short phrases and slogans that express what they do to the general population.