Can a company claim the rights to a unit of measurement? The answer, according to Subway, is yes.
NPR reports that the popular sandwich chain has applied for trademark rights to the word ‘footlong’ when used in association with sandwiches. This fact became public when Subway mistakenly sent a cease and desist letter to a Florida restaurant that was marketing its hot dogs as footlongs.
“It was a ‘clerical error,’ Kevin Kane, a Subway spokesman, told [NPR]. Using ‘footlong’ for hot dogs is no problem -- the company is only trying to trademark the term for sandwiches,” NPR reports. Yes, it turns out that Subway has answered another important question: hot dogs are not actually sandwiches.
Subway’s spokesman would not state how many other letters they mailed out to enforce their footlong hegemony, but the letter itself is as menacing as it is ridiculous. “You are hereby put on notice to cease and desist from using FOOTLONG (TM) in association with sandwiches. You must immediately remove all references to FOOTLONG (TM) in association with sandwiches,” the letter declares, according to NPR.
Next thing you know, they’ll try to forbid anyone named Jared from losing weight.
It may sound bizarre for any company to claim the rights to a common word or phrase like ‘footlong,’ but Subway isn’t the first. Paris Hilton has fought for the rights to the phrase, ‘That’s Hot,’ the NFL has tried to claim the phrase ‘Who Dat’ and some Australians are still angry at the company that makes Uggs because the word is commonly used in that country much in the same way that we say “shoes.”