Sriracha is a well-known chili-based hot sauce that was made popular in the US by Huy Fong Foods Company, achieving greater consumer success due to its distinctive red bottles with a green cap, its rooster logo and of course…its flavor.
However, the Sriracha sauce has an intriguing story related to trademark protection or, to be precise, lack of protection, considering that Huy Fong Foods never actually protected their brand by applying for registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and now the trademark was deemed to be too generic to be granted.
If Huy Fong Foods had actually registered their trademark they could in turn stop third parties from trying to copy their trademark and thus would’ve prevented others from using Sriracha in their products, which didn’t happen and with time led to the entry of several other competitors in the Sriracha sauce market.
With many other companies producing Sriracha sauce, the term became associated with a specific type of sauce and thus the USPTO declared that the term was indeed generic for describing the product and hitherto it has rejected all trademark applications that are too close and that don’t vary much from the term “Sriracha”.
One might argue that a paradox has originated and that the Sriracha is now protected considering that no one else can register it, but also one might ask if it would be possible for Huy Fong Foods to seek protection nowadays and the response is not clear. Furthermore, the company’s founder has argued that others are actually doing free advertisement to Huy Fong’s products, but if big sauce-producer companies start to join in the growing Sriracha market, Huy Fong’s might be overthrown from its current dominant position.
With all these uncertainties, if one thing is certain is that you better be safe and register your trademarks than sorry.