business news in context, analysis with attitude

BrandChannel reports that Whole Foods has "filed a federal service mark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)," looking to call itself the "World's Healthiest Grocery Store."

The filing was "on an intent-to-use basis, which means that Whole Foods has not used the mark yet, but plans to use it pending approval from the USPTO."

Now, filing such a request is said to be far different than getting it approved. The story says that "the quest to claim the top spot amongst competing brands through a trademark or service mark registration is often a fruitless one. Words that merely describe a product or a service, or even one of the characteristics of that product or service, are usually too weak to gain the requisite distinctiveness for a successful federal registration application. Included within this category of problematic words are laudatory terms, which attribute quality or excellence to goods or services."

For example, Dunkin' Donuts in 2012 was denied the right to use the phrase, "the best coffee in America." The USPTO said that the claim "constituted 'mere puffery' that was incapable of functioning as a trademark."
KC's View:
This strikes me as hubris, pure and simple. If it were granted the right to use this tag line, it would set up Whole Foods to be criticized for all the stuff it carries that isn't healthy. (Even John Mackey concedes that a lot of the stuff they sell isn't that good for you.) They'd get smacked down, and they'd deserve it.