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Brand Spotlight: History of The Chanel Trademark



Written By: Cara O’Hanlon

Edited By: Zara Watson, Esq.

Founded in 1909, Chanel has been known for its tweed jackets, quilted purses, skirt suits, and interlocking “C” logo for over a century. The word “Chanel” is now used to describe similar pieces made by other brands. For example, Vogue Runway noted that in Moschino’s Spring/Summer 2016 show, “Scott played fast and loose with Chanel-isms” such as “Chanel-style skirt suits” that “came in flashy neons with flashier reflective-tape edging”. In 2009, Women’s Wear Daily published a notice from Chanel asking fashion media outlets to forgo using its name when referring to the products made by other brands. The note reads:

“A note of information and entreaty to fashion editors, advertisers, copywriters and other well-intentioned mis-users of our Chanel name: Chanel was a designer, an extraordinary woman who made a timeless contribution to fashion. Chanel is a perfume. Chanel is modern elegance in couture, ready-to-wear, accessories, watches, and fine jewelry. Chanel is our registered trademark for fragrance, cosmetics, clothing, accessories, and other lovely things. Although our style is justly famous, a jacket is not ‘a Chanel jacket’ unless it is ours, and somebody else’s cardigans are not ‘Chanel for now.’ And even if we are flattered by such tributes to our fame as ‘Chanel-issime, Chanel-ed, Chanels, and Chanel-ized’, PLEASE DON’T. Our lawyers positively detest them. We take our trademark seriously. Merci, Chanel, Inc.”

Chanel has become notorious for its protective attitude toward its trademarks. Chanel filed trademark applications for the mark Chanel and the double “c” logo in 1924 for their perfumes and cosmetic products. In 1926, Chanel was granted trademark registration for the “No. 5 de Chanel” perfume and has trademarked several other versions of their logo since then. Every year, Chanel files on average 40 trademark infringement cases in federal courts to protect these marks. 

Trademarks can be extremely profitable assets in luxury fashion, serving to distinguish brands from their competitors and protect their reputation. This allows shoppers to infer the quality of a product before purchasing. For example, the Chanel name and its interlocking “c” logo on Chanel bags suggests a higher level of quality than many other bags. This allows luxury brands to charge higher prices as their trademarks become status symbols and shoppers are drawn to their brand’s reputation. However, to be registered as a trademark, a word or logo must be considered distinctive and generic terms are not eligible for trademark protection. Improper use of a trademark can cause it to become generic. For example, words such as aspirin, laundromat, trampoline, and videotape were all trademarks that became generic over time and can be used by multiple brands because they are no longer federally protected marks. Use of the Chanel name when referring to the goods of other brands puts the company at risk of losing its trademarks due to generalization, and therefore the status and reputation it has earned over the last century. 

Your trademark is your company’s most valuable asset. With our help, protect your brand so you know that no one else can use your mark. Click here to schedule your free call with Attorney Zara Watson today!

**This information is for informational purposes only, no attorney-client privilege has been formed.


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