What is the sound of a Brandless brand?

Put your bean-to-bar chocolate and artisanal avocado toast aside, there’s a new trend making waves with Millennials – brandless brands. Or, more accurately, the Brandless™ brand.

Brandless, a new e-commerce company, aims to make a variety of household goods available direct to consumers all at a $3 price point. The belief is that consumers (read “Millennials”) prefer to eschew name brands. Brandless aims to strip away what it calls the “brand tax” to provide fairly priced products that are largely organic, GMO-free, and sustainably made.

The irony is that in marketing itself as a rejection of the prototypical brand, Brandless is of course still a brand. One need look no further than the PTO records to find clear evidence that Brandless wants to register and protect this brand. It has applied for two standard character marks for BRANDLESS (ser. nos. 87080580 and 87274119) and a logo (ser. no. 87482317) for a variety of goods across a range of classes.

A quick review of the Brandless website (https://brandless.com/), however, reveals that the Brandless goods are not emblazoned with the BRANDLESS marks. Instead, each product follows a simple pattern: a generally monochromatic background with a white, rectangular label affixed with a “TM” that identifies the product type, relevant information, and the name “Brandless™”. For example, the red can of “Tomato Sauce” states it is “organic” and, among other attributes, “Brandless™”. The brown “Cold Brew Coffee Bag” is “fair trade,” “farmed in Peru,” and “BrandlessTM”. This pattern is consistent on all one hundred plus items available.

It seems that Brandless is less focused on pushing its name BRANDLESS than on creating consumer recognition of the white, rectangular label as the identifier of the source of origin. To that end, it comes as no surprise that Brandless has also filed an application to register the design (ser. no. 87481471), covering a wide range of goods across a number of classes. Brandless describes the mark as “a white rectangle with rounded edges. To the outside upper right hand corner of said rectangle reads the terms TM. The broken or dotted lines are not claimed as part of the mark but designate the outer edge or perimeter of the rectangle that forms the mark. The color white is claimed as a feature of the mark.”

The concept and marketing strategy behind Brandless seems fine-tuned to resonate with Millennials. But if and when Brandless takes off with its target demographic, it would be foolish to let someone else trade on its goodwill by adopting similar minimalist packaging. Brandless seems acutely aware of that fact, as evidenced by its trademark applications, and it is poised to protect its “brandless” brand.