Should’ve predicted this? Specsavers trademark their most famous word

As Specsavers look to trademark the word “should’ve” (and of course, ‘shouldve’, for those who don’t use apostrophes), what does this mean for creatives?

The last year has seen a host of law suits and copyright allegations across a host of industries – from Marvin Gaye’s estate filing against Pharrell for the beats to Blurred Lines, to this latest venture by Specsavers.

The company’s application to become the rights holder to the word ‘should’ve’ has been approved by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), meaning that the global optician chain can potentially block other companies from using the world in their marketing.

Creatives will always have to be careful not to cross the line and infringe on existing material, but where is the line, how close is it, and where does it end?

Trademarking “should’ve” is obvious in the Specsavers case, and must be on a context basis, but will this case serve to open the doors for others to follow? Will Tesco coin “Every..” or will we see Secret Escapes trademarking “Shh…”, for example?

And how does this step affect the creative industry?

Ideas will always, by nature, need to be new, but will the concept of the idea begin to be owned by brands. As advertisements edge on copyright, will physical, experiential stunts do the same? Will we see brands claiming the Tube photo opp, or heaven forbid the idea of floating a sculpture down the Thames?

Should Michael Jackson have become the rights holder to the Thames float idea?

Of course, Specsavers aren’t the first to bid to trademark such a common word (Carlsberg looked to grab ‘probably’ back in 1993, and others have coined slogans, most notably KitKat’s ‘Have a break’), but where will it end?

And what does it hold for the future of creative?

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