December 10, 2013

The Elf on the Shelf Brings Trademark Magic to the Holiday Season

by randymichels


The holiday season is upon us! This means parties, gift giving, and a flurry of merriment. For my wife and me, it also means having our 2-year-old obsess over The Elf on the Shelf. On our drive back from visiting family at Thanksgiving, our son watched The Elf on the Shelf DVD at least 10 times. Spoiler alert: Chippy the Elf gets his Christmas magic back.

Last year, the Elf was named "ish". Of course, our son called everything else "ish" back then. Through the miracle of modern marketing, however, "ish" has been re-named "Chippy." So far, Chippy has done a marvelous job of keeping our son's behavior in check. Crayon marks on the wall are down. Vegetable consumption is on the rise. Only one ornament has been broken. Water is mostly staying in the bathtub at bathtime. I am also pleased to report that the number of objects he has thrown at the dog has dropped 50% in the last week.

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Poppy And Chippy2
Chippy with our grateful dog[/caption]

The Elf on the Shelf describes itself as a "Christmas tradition," but the story only dates back to 2004. Sales and marketing were a priority from the start. The creators filed their first two federal trademark applications on August 8, 2005. One application was for the words THE ELF ON THE SHELF and the other application was for this familiar looking Elf:

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Elf Drawing
Is that you Chippy?[/caption]

According to "tradition," the Elf loses its Christmas magic if you touch it. Apparently, the Elf's trademark applications can also lose their magic if touched by an examining attorney at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Both of the applications were abandoned for failing to respond to office actions.

The applicant filed petitions to revive the trademark applications. None of the typical Elf excuses were made (e.g., Rudolph ate it, backlog at Santa's workshop, too much egg nog, etc.). Rather, the applicant cited the rather mundane reason that the prosecuting attorney had changed addresses and did not receive the office actions. The petitions were denied.

Rather than appeal to Santa Claus, the applicant filed new applications. A new application was filed for the Elf design on January 10, 2008, and registered on March 10, 2009. An application for THE ELF ON THE SHELF (stylized) was filed on March 18, 2009, and registered on December 30, 2008.

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The Elf on the Shelf Trademark Registrations[/caption]

The Elf is also breaking into new markets. A trademark application for the words THE ELF ON THE SHELF A BIRTHDAY TRADITION was filed on October 18, 2013. Another application was filed for this festive fellow:

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Birthday Elf
Look out birthdays, here I come![/caption]

I suspect that the Elf will not stop with birthdays. So if you have young children, brace yourself. You are about to be hosting elves all year round. As they say in the North Pole, it is an Elf's world, you just live in it.