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What’s in a Name? 4 Brand Names Worth Fighting For

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The future of brand names as we know them may be impacted thanks to two major trademark disputes. 

We all know that names and logos can be trademarked. Even regions have been allowed to trademark themselves for over a hundred years – since the 1891 Treaty of Madrid held that only sparkling wine from the region of Champagne could use the enticing name.

So profit off of a slogan or a brand name from another company and someone might come after you – and they’re not always as polite about it as the owner of Jack Daniels, Brown-Forman Corporation (NYSE:BF.B) is.

Brown-Forman Corporation (NYSE:BF-B)But can you trademark a color? Or name your product with a parody of another brand? These seem like pretty trivial questions, but they’re actually causing a lot of trouble.

For one, there’s the story of Nestle SA Reg Shs. Ser. B Spons (ADR) (OTCMKTS:NSRGY) – the Swiss chocolate giant that incited the wrath of Cadbury by trying to sell chocolates using Cadbury’s signature shade of mauve. Cadbury’s owners, Mondelez International Inc (NASDAQ:MDLZ), initiated a suit over the matter, saying, “Our color purple has been linked with Cadbury for a century and the British Public has grown up understanding its link with our chocolate.”

But can a color really be considered intellectual property, even if you’ve been using it for a hundred years? British courts held that the answer is no, and that Cadbury’s claim failed to illustrate the “clarity,” “precision,” and “objectivity,” required for protection.

Parody, as well, was taken off the table this month.

The social-gaming website Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) recently won a dispute with the website “Bang With Friends,” alleging that the casual-sex application had deliberately drawn the name of their brand from Zynga’s popular “With Friends” franchise, including “Words With Friends.” The suit was settled amicably with “Bang With Friends” promising to change their name without going to court.

Maybe both companies were concerned that a heated legal battle would erode their friendly images.

And, of course, that brings us to some of the most valuable brand names of all – which were announced this week in Interbrand’s list of 100 “Best Global Brands.” The top name probably won’t surprise you. Here’s a hint: According to Interbrand, the name alone of this fruit-inspired company is worth over $98 billion.

How do you like them apples?

Click on the interactive chart below to see data over time. 

Some companies have brands that seem (more or less) worth stealing. But beyond the legal battles, are there any investment ideas? Use the list we compiled of stocks with disputed brands below to begin your own analysis.

1. Zynga Inc. (ZNGA, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Develops, markets, and operates online social games as live services on the Internet, social networking sites, and mobile platforms in the United States and internationally. Market cap at $3.04B, most recent closing price at $3.67.
2. Mondelez International, Inc. (MDLZ, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and markets snack food and beverage products worldwide. Market cap at $54.61B, most recent closing price at $30.54.

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