Fans of spurious corporate litigation that we are, Stop the Week was as pleased as ever to see Subway up to its old tricks. The sandwich chain, has been wrangling its way through the UK courts, trying to prove that its toasted subs are VAT-exempt, and in so doing, posing the most profound philosophical, ’when is a toasted sandwich not a toasted sandwich?’. This time, it is going to be getting its subs out in court after trying to trademark "footlong" for its 12-inch subs.
Subway in the US had issued a cease-and-desist letter against Casey’s for using the term in advertising. Casey’s was having none of it and filed a lawsuit against Subway to prove it had no proprietary ownership of "footlong". An Iowa court will now adjudicate as the two measure up in a courtroom sub-off.
The case revolves around the use of "footlong" as a noun or verb. Subway has used "footlong" as a noun across 34,000 outlets, while Casey’s has begun using it as an adjective on menus in 180 stores. The latter claims it is a generic adjective to denote 12-inch subs. Subway has already had a trademark application for restaurant services denied, but another bid for footlong to describe the sandwiches is still pending.
For those of us excited by linguistic sparring, the role of grammar in trademarking will have its day in court. Sit tight, this one’s going to be a rollercoaster.