A Multimodal Approach to Meaning-Making in Trademarks

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When enterprises go to court to settle disputes over confusable graphic trademarks and intellectual property, they usually present evidence to the nature of the design of the involved marks, which is based on subjective judgment – usually on the part of an appraiser with a professional background in design. On a case-by-case basis, this practice is quite adequate. However, a long-term effort to fight the increasing counterfeiting activity in newly industrialized countries partly relies on systematic and comparable observations of the ways in which infringements come about. This paper presents an attempt at identifying measurable and comparable variables in the two marks involved in the case of Rolls Royce PLC versus PR Chokolade from 2007. More specifically, the paper elaborates on a signographic taxonomy presented by Andreas Stötzner in 2003, and discusses ‘the drawn stroke’, a resource that plays a part in the meaning-making of all graphic trademarks. Using the taxonomy for a detailed analysis of the Rolls Royce and PR marks, the article concludes that – albeit very similar – the marks are different in that the Rolls Royce mark retains a connection with calligraphy and the motor system of the human body, whereas the PR marks is the result of an abstract formalized and stylized use of the same resources known from typography.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOdense Working Papers in Language and Communication
Pages (from-to)460-480
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventInternational Systemic Functional Congress - Odense, Denmark
Duration: 16. Jul 200720. Jul 2007
Conference number: 34


ConferenceInternational Systemic Functional Congress

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