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Specsavers causing a spectacle

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The use by Specsavers of the phrase “should’ve gone to Specsavers” in its advertising is well known to the public. Understandably, the optician registered a trademark for use of this phrase, with use with certain classes or categories of goods, to protect it against any unauthorised use.    

However, Specsavers have taken a further step and made an application to trademark the words “should’ve” and “shouldve”. Unusually, their application has been approved by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), however, objections can still be made to the application up until 12 October 2016.  The trademark application means that other companies will not be able to use “should’ve” or “shouldve” in their marketing.  

The approval of the application is unusual as these words would generally be considered common words and therefore not capable of being trademarked.  However, the IPO have said that where common words could be linked to a company through “use or association” applications can be made.  Examples of words in common usage which have been trademarked are McDonald’s trademark of the phrase “i’m lovin’ it” and Nestle’s use of the phrase “Have a Break” for its Kit Kat biscuits.   

Additionally the use of a single word is unusual and the only other similar example is Carlsberg and the use of the word “Probably”.  However, Carlsberg only had the right to exclusive use of this word in relation to beer and related alcohol products. Specsaver’s application extends its right to exclusive use of the word beyond what would be expected and includes printed matter such as magazines, books, stationery and greetings cards.  If no objections are made or upheld, Specsavers will have a powerful monopoly over these words.