Hot Trademark Topic: Sriracha Deemed Generic

On May 7, 2015, in Trademarks, by Brian A. Hall

UnIntellectual Property (UnIP): Trademark for “sriracha”

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held that the immensely popular hot sauce, “sriracha,” has become generic and thus is not entitled to trademark registration or protection.  The trademark history, as told by law inc., is summarized well enough that I need not repeat it.  However, I will note that the most intriguing part of this story is not the debate as to whether “sriracha” is indeed genercized, but rather the decision by its founder, Tren, to not pursue a USPTO trademark registration at the outset.  In doing so, there is little doubt that he has forgone millions of dollars of licensing revenue and is jeopardizing the long-term success as others flood the market under the same name.  Admittedly, he would have had to spend some legal dollars to register, secure agreements and potentially enforce the mark, but that is a cost of doing business, and a good one when you consider the ROI.  While I can’t question the man’s success, his love of zen or the taste of the product itself, I do question his legal stance with regard to trademark protection.  As a trademark lawyer and business man, it makes me cringe, much like a bite of too much of his hot sauce.


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