December 5, 2012

Frosted Fakes?

Several Kellogg's cereals were on sale the other day so I picked up a box of Frosted Flakes. Later on in my shopping adventure, I spotted this on the shelf in the "Ethnic Food" aisle:

Another box of Frosted Flakes, but this one by Pampa instead of Kellogg's. It was a similar blue box with some flakes, a splash of milk, mysterious red fruit, and a totally extreme cartoon mascot. I never heard of this company before and thought it was odd to not find the box among the usual generic brands in the Cereal Aisle. Maybe they banished Pampa Frosted Flakes to another aisle as punishment for stealing a trademarked name?

Well, as it turns out, "Frosted Flakes" is not a trademarkable term, at least according to Wikipedia. There's no specific source attributed to that claim, but a quick search of US Trademarks shows that "Kellogg's Frosted Flakes" and "Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Gold" (and formerly, "Kellogg's Cocoa Frosted Flakes") are all owned by The Kellogg Company, but "Frosted Flakes" can not be held exclusive to describe a cereal-derived food product. Records also show that Post once had their own trademarked Frosted Flakes ("Post Toasties Frosted Flakes") and Ralcorp had "Chocolatious Frosted Flakes" but these have since lapsed in registration. I guess every other company just figured "Who cares about the beginning? We already don't need to pay for the 'Frosted Flakes' part!" and ran with it.

It's sort of unfortunate for Kellogg's because the term "Frosted Flakes" is probably the most important and recognizable part of the phrase to consumers. "Kellogg's," ubiquitous in their packaging, slogans, and advertising, is usually ignored. They probably should have come up with a more original, trademarkable name (Tony the Tigerflakes?) in the first place, but to make up for their mistake, they've secured their trademark on the term "Frosted Flakes" for every inedible item on the planet: dishware, sneakers, shirts, hats, underwear, gloves, puzzles, toy cars, and measuring cups, among other things. This means you'll never see Pampa's little hoverboarder on a T-shirt next to the words "Frosted Flakes." They aren't lying when they say "pay only for taste" because it's legally all they'll be able to sell you.

As you can see, Pampa (owned by Transnational Foods) takes advantage of this little trademark loophole with their "Raisin Bran" cereal as well. "Corn Flakes" get the Pampa treatment too. From there, their naming strategy is all over the place:

They have a cereal called "Cocoa Drops." This name seems to mimic the foreign version of Kellogg's "Cocoa Krispies" known as "Coco Pops," but doesn't resemble the cereal other than in color. "Cocoa Drops" looks and probably tastes more like General Mills' "Cocoa Puffs." "Coco Puffs," as it's known throughout the world, is trademarked in the US while "Coco Pops" is not. Pampa could have legally used the "Coco Pops" named for their cereal in the US. A more accurate name with worldwide appeal would have parodied "Cocoa Puffs" though. "Choco Puffs" perhaps?

Then they've got "Fruitty Wheels" which is a knockoff of Kellogg's "Froot Loops." "Fruit Wheels" cereal is already trademarked by the grocery store Winn-Dixie, though I'm not seeing any obvious evidence of them using it on a cereal box. Oddly, I've been able to track down a "Fruit Discs" cereal sold by WD, but that name isn't trademarked at all. So the question is, why did Pampa choose "Fruitty Wheels"? "Fruitty" isn't even an English word (then again, neither is "Froot") and I don't see any trademark for "Fruity Wheels." Maybe they're trying to distance themselves from a possible suit for misrepresenting fruit content and intentionally spelling the word incorrectly. That didn't seem to work for Kellogg's though.

Finally, there is "Honey Rings." There are already a thousand different cereals called "Honey Rings" because it's not trademarked. I don't even know what this is a knockoff of, to be honest. I know this guy's not a fan. It seems Pampa is just going with the flow here.

Most interesting to me about the Pampa cereals is that all the boxes use the exact same milk splash into the bowl. The Raisin Bran artwork omits one little milk dot that should appear over the top "N." Honey Rings omits the entire milk pour which makes you wonder what the hell is splashing. The Corn Flakes box doesn't feature the Marty McFly-lookin' kid, but that doesn't mean it's sugar-free.

Where'd he go anyway? COME BACK SWEET PRINCE!

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