"Should've" trademark goes to Specsavers

A rare instance of a business getting the monopoly on a single word...

Optical retail chain Specsavers looks set to successfully trademark the word "should've" in the UK.

It is also aiming to secure the rights to "shouldve", having applied to the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) for trade protection on the two terms on July 18th.

The company has been using its "should've gone to Specsavers" advertising catchphrase since 2003.

With IPO approval granted, there is now a two-month waiting period to allow third parties to object.

Speaking to The Times, London patent attorney Martin MacLean said he was "surprised" at the move to trademark a single word without it being used as part of a longer phrase.

Meanwhile Mathys & Squite trademark specialist Emma Reeve said applications for distinctive slogans such as Nike's "just do it" were generally far more likely to get approval, stating that "it would be very difficult to monopolise 'should've'."

There is no reason in principle that "should've" could not be registered as a trademark, with "always", "don't" and "never" all also currently registered as trademarks. 

Twenty years ago, Carlsberg set a precedent when it registered "probably" as a trademark.

The trademark does not stop prevent competitors from using such words in ordinary descriptive sentences. 

However, in a Telegraph article, Tania Clark of intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers opined that "this monopoly right could make life extremely difficult for rivals."

She continued:

“We would expect more brand owners to try to obtain a registration for a single word used in their advertising or marketing campaigns in the future. After all, the ability to exclusively own the right to use a commonly-used word in your communications activity is an incredibly powerful marketing tool.”