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How Can How Be Trademarked? Ask Dov Seidman

The New York Times Global Forum With Thomas L. Friedman - Inside


How in the world can the word “How” be trademarked? Bestselling author Dov Seidman certainly thinks that it can be and is wrangled in a legal battle with the yogurt maker Chobani over the word.

How can this be, you might be asking yourself.

Seidman, CEO of the consulting firm LRN, advises companies on how to be more ethical. He has even impressed the likes of former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Seidman authored the book “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything” in 2011, for which Clinton wrote the forward. He then trademarked the phrase “how matters.” The term refers to how businesses make their money, specifically if it is done ethically.

Now Chobani has begun a new advertising campaign to promote its yogurt which also uses the phrase How Matters. In this case it refers to “how” the company prepares its yogurts.

So Seidman has filed suit against Chobani and its advertising firm Droga5, which came up with the new campaign, in order to stop the company from using what he believes to be a phrase to which he owns the exclusive rights. Chobani fired back by saying that it had never even heard of Seidman and has asked the court to cancel Mr. Seidman’s trademark on the grounds that the phrase is far too general to be worthy of trademark protection.

If you agree with Chobani that “how matters” is far too simple a phrase to be trademarked by any one person or company then you are in good company. Many intellectual properties experts agree with you.

How will the matter be resolved? We will just have to wait and see how the judge rules.

The word “how” has now appeared eleven times in this story so let’s hope that Seidman does not decide to sue JBN too.


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