Monday, September 15, 2008

Merrill Lynch will still have a valuable trademark and brand

The acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, as announced yesterday, does seem to present an argument for aggressive use of trademark laws and of the concept in some cases.

Although Bank of America will own the shares and the ML will cease to be traded as a separate entity, the Bank will have the right to operate Merrill Lynch under the Merrill Lynch brand if it chooses. It would have the right to keep a separate corporate reporting structure if it wants, but the main concept is that the “brand” (with the name as a wordmark and the bull as a trade dress) will continue to exist to identify a brokerage service for consumers. No other party would have the right to use the mark for financial services. Purchase of a business does not eliminate its identity as a brand under trademark law and has no direct effect on its trademark registration.

Media reports have continued to stress the separation of accounts within a brokerage business, and the proper use of the brand name should help reinforce the public’s confidence in that concept.

So, trademark law is necessary for many activities that we take for granted, including economic continuity.

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