The New Wisconsin Logo “Live Like You Mean It” and Its Early Criticism: Much Ado About Nothing?

Newspapers, web sites, and blogs are all talking these days about the newly launched Wisconsin slogan (“Live Like You Mean It”) that will replace the slogan “Life’s So Good” in promoting Wisconsin as a tourism and business destination. In the words of Governor Doyle, “This is another tool we’ll use to keep loyal visitors coming back, communicate why a business should relocate or expand here, and let talented employees know why they should choose Wisconsin.” Even if it is certainly “catchy,” the new slogan has already attracted a fair amount of criticism, primarily because it is not so “new” as we may think.

Instead, as Ryan Foley from Associated Press reports, “motivational speakers, authors and even wine and spirit maker Bacardi have already used the phrase in marketing campaigns,” and an Internet search can easily shows several other uses of the same slogan with respect to different already existing products or services. As a result, the State could face a lawsuit for trademark infringement, should its use of the “new” logo provoke confusion among consumers with any of the preexisting products or services that already carry the same slogan to identify them.

Still, the State is applying for a trademark registration for the slogan at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the state’s brand manager has assured that “[w]e have certainly done our due diligence to be sure that we could use this [slogan].” In fact, outside counselors have been hired and proper vetting of the slogan has been performed before its launch (and following criticism).

Where does this bring us then?  Could Wisconsin seriously face a lawsuit for trademark infringement because ot the use of the slogan “Live Like You Mean It”? Like my UW-Madison I.P. colleague Anuj Desai, I also doubt that the state would have legal problems, and I would tend to exclude any likelihood of consumer confusion between the Wisconsin products and services carrying the new logo and slogan and the preexisting ones. In particular, the reason for this position is that consumers are unlikely to be confused as to the origin of products carrying the combination of the word “Wisconsin” with the slogan in question. If that is the case, i.e., if all products and services carrying the new mark will always carry the these combination of words, a likelihood of consumer confusion, and accordingly trademark infringement, can be excluded. I would also go so far as to exclude any liability for likelihood of dilution for the new Wisconsin slogan with preexisting “Live Like You Mean It” marks. For dilution to exist, a preexisting mark has to be famous, and no pre-exisiting mark seem to me famous (the only mark that could have been famous, the one from Bacardi, has been already abandoned by the spirit maker). In addition, either tarnishment or blurring of the existing mark needs to exist, and the current facts do not support any of these possibilities with respect with the “new” Wisconsin logo.

That said, the quarrel remains, and of course criticism will continue. This will unlikely develop, however (and hopefully for Wisconsin), into future lawsuits. What could be seen, on the other side, in the future, is the State of Wisconsin “going after” newer users of a similar or identical slogan!  So, good luck Wisconsin, we wish you well with your (our) new logo . . . may we all be able (particulalry now that Spring seems to be around the corner) to live like we “mean it!”

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Melissa Greipp

    A while back, Wisconsin’s logo was “Escape to Wisconsin.” A friend of mine took a picture of an East German military officer holding a bumper sticker with that logo.

  2. Chris King

    I’m less concerned with potential trademark liability than I am with the simple question: Why?

    Why does Wisconsin need to be spending money on redesigning the state’s tourism logo and slogan? I, for one, have never decided to visit a state because of a catchy slogan. I doubt businesses relocate to a state because of catchy slogans, either (favorable tax treatment seems to be a much more likely inducement).

    So, the state spent money developing the new logo and slogan and will spend more money slapping the logo and slogan on its marketing materials, which will require replacement of marketing materials featuring the old logo and slogan. Is this where you want your tax dollars going? Because it sure isn’t where I would choose to have mine spent.

  3. Travis Miller

    If any buzz is good buzz, then this was one of the best P.R. moves ever. Wisconsin has successfully announced to the entire country its slogan change, which is a feat in and of itself. Really, how many state slogans do you know, yet I imagine almost everyone in the country has picked up on Wisconsin’s trademark dispute. If only there was some information about Wisconsin tourism and a note on a thriving economy attached to the stories.

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