Does American Airlines own the word “Advantage” globally? That’s an open question right now in Hong Kong as the company is fighting a trademark registration application from another company. And to read the filing would have one believe that there is simply nothing about loyalty or the word “Advantage” (plus “AAdvantage”) that American should not control.
Loyalty Advantage is a consulting and technology company that helps companies operate and optimize loyalty programs. It is the brains behind the scenes. And as part of its expansion in Asia it recently applied for trademark protection of the Loyalty Advantage name and logo. American Airlines is opposing that application, claiming that it will potentially confuse customers of the AAdvantage program and interfere with the airline’s business, “the Opposed Mark is likely to deceive or mislead the public into the belief that its services are related to or associated with [American Airlines].” Never mind that one brand is wholly focused on consumers and the other is a B2B operation that doesn’t want to be associated with the AAdvantage program. American Airlines also believes that the association with the AAdvantage program name is a good thing, citing the “worldwide goodwill of [American]’s aviation and travel services…the choice of the word ‘ADVANTAGE’ adopted in the Opposed Mark suggests that the Applicant has copied the Opponent’s Mark ‘AADVANTAGE.'”
The marks are registered mostly in different classes of use and even where the class numbers overlap the use cases within those classes do not seem to. My arm-chair lawyering from half-way around the world says that might just be enough for the objection to be declined. But there is one additional line in the filing that makes me wonder just how broad American believes its position to be:
The word “LOYALTY” is of a relatively low degree of distinctiveness when used in relation to the Applied-for Services. The constituting word of the Opposed Mark “ADVANTAGE” is identical in pronunciation with the Opponent’s Marks.
Put another way, using “loyalty” when describing a company focused on loyalty marketing consulting is not especially relevant and the word “advantage” matters more. Which is to say that anyone using the word “advantage” anywhere in the world for anything that might get remotely close to an airline is prohibited, at least in American’s view of the rules. Possibly even related to hotels and restaurants, too, based on some of the other bits in the filing. And that seems quite excessive to me.
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