A trademark includes any word, symbol, or combination thereof which constitutes a brand name. Brands are an essential part of everyday life that allow us to distinguish item sources, set price expectations, and quality expectations. Brand recognition allows consumers to hold the brand accountable, which in turn incentivizes the safety of a manufacturer’s product. To create a new trademark, an application must be submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). An applicant’s mark will be refused if it gives rise to a likelihood of confusion.
Adderall, manufactured by Shire LLC, was introduced to the public in 1996 as a pill for treatment of individuals diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The purpose of the medication is to increase attention while decreasing impulsiveness and hyperactivity. The product takes effect after an individual swallows the pill with liquids, but Adderall is also known to cause adverse reactions such as weight loss and loss of appetite. Due to the drug’s tendency to be abused, it is heavily regulated and can only be obtained through prescription by a licensed medical professional.
A person could accidentally purchase Shredderall, expecting it to aid their ADHD, and fail to benefit from the effects of Adderall which may have been necessary to pass an important exam. If this same mix-up were to happen with more serious medications, such as seizure meds or high-strength painkillers, the results could be even more disastrous.
Recently, Shire filed an opposition against a man attempting to register a trademark for his product, “Shredderall.” Shire claims that the public is likely to believe that Shredderall is from the same source as Adderall. If the examining USPTO agent finds there is a likelihood of confusion between the two product sources, then Shredderall’s registration will probably be refused.
Obviously, Shredderall sounds pretty similar to the brand name Adderall. But this alone may not be enough to cause confusion between a consumer. You likely don’t mistake your local farmer’s advertisement, containing the word “APPLES,” for a sale of Apple brand computers. Thus, a deeper inquiry into the identity of Shredderall is warranted.
Shredderall is a homeopathic dietary supplement that comes in the form of a pill. The product’s website claims the pill can “enhance your performance[,]” as well as provide “increased metabolism[,] enhanced mental focus[,] crash free energy[, and] appetite control.” Shredderall does not require a prescription, and it can be purchased online through the product’s website or in retail stores such as Walmart. The pills are orange in color and come in a clear container, wrapped up in a colorful label containing the word “SHREDDERALL” in bold lettering.
Common sense seems to tell you that nobody is going to confuse Shredderall with a product that comes in an orange bottle, with a uniform prescription label, and is only provided by a medical professional. Even if a patient accidentally asked for Shredderall to help treat their ADHD, their medical professional is apt to understand that the patient intended to say “Adderall,” given the professional spent years studying medical conditions and how to diagnose them.
Shredderall is also advertised for treatment of symptoms other than those which Adderall addresses. Shredderall doesn’t claim to help people with ADHD. The only overlap in effects of the two pills is the decreased appetite, or “appetite control,” which is listed as an adverse reaction to the consumption of Adderall. If Adderall intentionally marketed itself as a portion control pill, then the likelihood of confusion between the two products might be more evident.
But it is important to keep in mind that humans make mistakes, and individuals suffering from an attention disorder are even more prone to slip-ups. A person could accidentally purchase Shredderall, expecting it to aid their ADHD, and fail to benefit from the effects of Adderall which may have been necessary to pass an important exam. If this same mix-up were to happen with more serious medications, such as seizure meds or high-strength painkillers, the results could be even more disastrous.
Although at first glance it may seem like a silly fight for Shire to pick, approval of Shredderall’s registered mark could give rise to real problems. If brand confusion occurs, source-identification of brands becomes tougher. And it is important to know who to hold accountable if Adderall or Shredderall were to cause a severe adverse reaction in one of its consumers.
In addition, Adderall is a profitable drug. The little pill brought in almost 364 million dollars of revenue in 2016. The owner, Shire LLC, does not want any portion of that revenue lost due to someone confusing the brand name “Adderall” with as rad of a term as “Shredderall.”
All in all, this is an interesting dispute. Only time will tell whether the Shredderall name can withstand opposition from the pharma giant Shire.