In late 2012, networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. launched a marketing and branding campaign with print, television and web advertisements featuring the tagline “Tomorrow Starts Here.” As the technology news website All Things Digital noted, the campaign came after a year of “gut-wrenching round of layoffs” that involved the company cutting 6,500 jobs and eliminating about 15 percent of executives. The reduction amounted to about 9 percent of Cisco’s total work force.
The campaign that was supposed to be part of a turnaround for Cisco instead led to a sour start to 2013, as All Things Digital reported that East Carolina University (ECU) filed a trademark infringement lawsuit over the “Tomorrow Starts Here” slogan. According to All Things Digital, ECU registered a trademark on the phrase in August 2010. “We were surprised to learn that East Carolina University filed a complaint this morning,” a Cisco spokeswoman told All Things Digital. “Cisco takes intellectual property rights very seriously, and we are confident that our new campaign does not create any confusion in the marketplace.”
Trademark owners certainly reserve the right to defend against any misuse of their protected material, but the point about consumer confusion is important in proving infringement. As All Things Digital noted, “Cisco will apparently argue in court that its use of the phrase to sell networking and computing gear shouldn’t be seen as interfering with the university’s ability to recruit students.”
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