How Brand Names Brand Societies: A Comparative Study of Brand Names Registered in Selected English-Speaking Countries 1870-1980

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Commercial Law
Intellectual Property Law
Mass Communication
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McClure, Charles Augustus

Objectives were to investigate the registered brand name system in selected English-speaking countries, to determine attributes of brand names ("brands") and whether brand attributes characterize their source countries. Officials in Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Kenya, the United Kingdom, and the United States provided data routinely recorded in registering brand names--identified by random numbers preselected by this author. Each brand, whether only verbal, or only design, or mixed verbal/design, was coded for several dozen characteristics: general, morphological, goods-related, and meaning-related, including, for each, official numbers and dates, registering or renewing entity, goods so branded, and any goods-related meaning. Included, if verbal, were initial letters and word length; and, if design, whether abstract or pictorial, and type if pictorial. Brand names were characterized as a long-continuing mass communication symbol system. Textile brands are omnipresent, but in the developing countries medical (and sometimes cosmetic and/or leisure) brands are more frequent than brands for the biblical necessities of food, clothing, and shelter--which predominate in the industrialized countries. Over time, brand verbal content has increased whereas embellishment, as in use of borders and overt design content, has decreased markedly. India ranks highest in purely design and mixed verbal/design brands, and Ireland ranks highest in purely verbal, lowest in mixed verbal/design, brands. Recent years show modest resurgence in registration of designs--more in brand names with verbal content than in pure designs. Yet mixed verbal/design brands, possibly expected to survive better than do purely verbal or purely design brands, are less likely to be renewed. Renewal of registration was selected as a survival measure of success. Brands with trivial ("arbitrary") meaning or excessive ("descriptive") meaning about the branded goods survived better than intermediate ("suggestive") ones. Source countries were characterized according to their brand name features--and were found to cluster together, or to diverge from one or more others, depending upon feature(s) selected.

Klaus Krippendorff
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