Procter & Gamble, the household products company, has applied to trademark acronyms common in textspeak including “LOL” and “WTF”.
If successful, the terms could be used to market products such as soap, detergents and air fresheners in order to attract younger consumers.
P&G registered the trademark applications with the US Patent and Trademark Office in April. The newly branded products would be sold alongside well known items such as Febreze, Fairy and Mr Clean.
Alongside LOL (laughing out loud) and WTF (what the fuck), other acronyms P&G has applied to trademark are NBD (no big deal) and FML (fuck my life).
The company’s applications have not yet been approved. According to Ad Age, the trademark office has requested clarification regarding the applications and P&G has until January to respond.
P&G board member Nelson Peltz told CNBC in March that younger consumers did not want “one size fits all” brands but products “they have an emotional attachment to”. According to the statistics portal Statista, millennials in the US are expected to increase their annual spending to $1.4tn (£1.09tn) by 2020.
P&G are not the first company to try to trademark well known terms. In the US, the New England Patriots tried to trademark “19-0”, a reference to an unbeaten season, just two weeks before they lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
Walmart tried to trademark the yellow smiley face, which has been around since the 1970s. It got into legal battles with a rival claim from Franklin Loufrani, the president of The Smiley Company in Brussels, and lost in an attempt to sue the artist Charles Smith for parodying the symbol. The court concluded the smiley was in the public domain.
More successful were Facebook, who trademarked the word “face” in reference to telecommunication services. Paris Hilton owns the words “that’s hot” and successfully sued Hallmark greetings cards for using it, while celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe trademarked “bananas”.
Disney applied to trademark the name Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), but a petition that attracted more than 21,000 signatures in less than 24 hours forced the company to withdraw the application.
In Britain, Chanel’s attempt to trademark the name Jersey was denied by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. “It was important that we challenged this,” said Jersey senator Alan Maclean at the time. “This was about ownership of the name Jersey. It is not about stopping Chanel using the name.”
Procter & Gamble has been contacted for comment.