Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Chief Wahoo Chips

Cleveland Indians logo is the feature character for "cool" snack food.

My son works in Shanghai and he came across this bag of chips at a grocery store. Yes, it's Chief Wahoo sans the feather, and, yes, this is a flagrant theft of trademark (unless the Indians are licensing the logo to the chip manufacturer).

In China the "fine" for using someone's trademark is about $500. That's not much to stop them from doing it again. If you are an American brand it is difficult to get anyone to "cease and desist" from using your trademark. When I traveled to China in 2003 there is a popular place in Shanghai called the "Everything Market." It is an outdoor marketplace with hundreds of eight-foot wide booths selling every type of counterfeit branded goods from Ray-ban sunglasses to Burberry purses. There must be 50 booths selling fake North Face coats. At the Great Wall we got a big laugh seeing all the American tourists wearing brand new North Face clothing.

We all know the power of trademarks. But what does a trademark mean in another culture? In the U.S. the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo is well-known, even reviled, as a sports logo, but did anyone ever think it would represent "coolness" in order to sell potato chips?

By the way the chips are a tomato flavor. Yuck!

Copyright © 2005 James D. Fisher
All rights reserved.


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