Protect a new product composition using trademarks and patents – Patene Pro-V

The best way to market a new product composition is to:

  • file a patent for the composition. This will allow you to claim that your product / composition is “patent pending”; and
  • create a new word for the composition and trademark register that word.

Case study – Pantene PRO-V

In 1994, Pantene Pro-V became the worldwide #1 hair care brand with sales exceeding $1 billion.

You don’t get to #1 with a tailwind of luck. It took a great marketing plan and an exceptional “composite” product protection strategy. A protection strategy so powerful that, when adopted by other companies, propelled their products to #1. So what was this strategy?

The “Pro-V ” in Pantene Pro-V stands for Pro-Vitamin (definition: a substance that is converted into a vitamin within an organism). More specifically, Pro-V is a combination of:

Panthenol; and

Panthenyl Ethyl Ether.

Now, neither of these names roll off the tongue. And, the average consumer would guess that these chemicals would sooner kill you than make your hair shiny and vibrant. Imagine an advert:

Pantene Shampoo with Panthenol and Panthenyl Ethyl Ether – natural and green

You may as well add: bottled at source, Chernobyl.

So, step 1 is come up with a good name. Panthenol is a provitamin of B5 (yep, I had to look that up and have no idea what this really means), so why not call it a PROVITAMIN. Everyone loves vitamins – they make you strong and healthy. And, a ProVitamin is that, but MORE. One problem: you cannot trademark register a descriptive mark (i.e. a word that described the product). Someone tried it once in the US and had to abandon the trademark application.

So, PROVITAMIN is out. But, it is so good. What about PRO-V. Definitely not descriptive. Ask anyone – no-one “knows” what this is. Those who take a “stab” generally guess “proteins and vitamins”. Trademark registrability: ticked. So, from 28 June 1991, a series of trademarks for PRO-V were filed.

With the trademarks in hand, no-one else is allowed to use the word PRO-V in relation to shampoos – forever!

Next step: file a patent. The worst case scenario is that your patent is rejected. But, by filing a provisional patent you can claim for at least 12 months that your product is “Patent Pending”. On 20 March 1985, US patent no. 4705681 was filed for:

In a hair care composition for the treatment of hair the improvement comprising employing in said composition 9 parts by weight d-panthenyl ethyl ether per 1 part by weight d-panthenol for a combined weight of from about 0.05% to about 1.0%, based on the weight of the composition.

This patent did not stop competitors from adding Panthenol and Panthenyl Ethyl Ether to their shampoos. It merely stopped them from adding these alcohols in the specific ratio and concentrations patented.

The final step was to market PRO-V as some new super compound – as a new Higgs-Bosun-like particle. Something special. Something arcane. Something that no-one knows anything about, but wants. Something that will make you look as scrumptious as Kelly Le Brock, Iman and Gisele Bundchen:

And, when “with PRO-V” no longer satisfies the  inquisitive customer, amplify:

  • “with Pro-V technology”
  • “with Pro-V science”
  • “with Pro-V nourishment”
  • “with Pro-V formula”

Got it!

Now, everyone should want a shampoo with PRO-V – the thingamajig that no-one else has “because its patented”.

Fast forward to 20 March 2005. The Pro-V patents expire, so every Paul Mitchel, Liquid Keratin, Verb, Doux Suede, Dove, Sinmo Saengbaleum, Clarifying, Aras, Lavera, Imperial, B.Leve, Bumble and Bumble and Agree Swimmers Solution adds Panthenol and Panthenyl Ethyl Ether to its shampoo. But no-one notices or cares. Who wants Pantheny-chemicals? We all want PRO-V (R), and no-one but PANTENE can add PRO-V (R) to its shampoo – thanks to the indefatigable trademark registrations.


 

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