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When is a Versum not a Versum?

Case IH agricultural trademarking Versum

Agricultural trademarking isn’t simple

Only a couple of months ago I wrote about companies whose new product launches or market entries were let down by some rather dubious translations.

Now it seems a tractor manufacturer has been caught out – although translation’s not, on the face of it, the problem. Rather, Case IH is having to withdraw the Versum brand name because it’s too similar to another name in the market.

The unusual case was reported by Dutch machinery publication Mechaman. It’s acutely embarrassing for Case: the new brand was launched only in February, at the SIMA exhibition in Paris.

Now the manufacturer has instructed its dealers and distributors to pulp all promotional material that mentions the brand, and to take down any social media posts or website pages containing the Versum name, in an effort to contain this agricultural trademarking dispute.

But it’s not just a case of rebadging the tractors and issuing new brochures. Under the rules for EU tractor homologation, the renamed range will have to undergo the whole inspection process all over again. For a range that was slated for launch in early summer, that means no deliveries until September.

Mechaman speculates the name was too close to Versu, the trademark for AGCO’s Valtra, but Case has provided no further details of the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of the Versum name. Nor is there any indication of how it will replace the brand name.

Such situations inevitably attract speculation, especially in the absence of any firm detail. On the one hand, Versum and Versu seem uncomfortably similar for products within the same class. Yet it seems incredible that Case would not have done its homework, nor taken advice from its trademark attorneys, in choosing to use the Versum brand. So Valtra might not be the source of the complaint; it could relate to a product in a completely different sector, in possession of a wide-ranging trademark classification. It could also relate to a product that’s not yet on the market.

Lessons to be learned? One thing’s for certain: this will have cost Case a great deal of money to rectify. But without all the details, it’s impossible to draw conclusions. Just as translation of a strapline or slogan into a foreign language demands absolute attention to detail, so too do trademarks. It’s something we take utmost care over when working with clients on agricultural trademarking projects.

Once a client’s signed off on a new brand creation, we pursue one of two routes. Our larger clients often have in-house trademark attorneys, or at the very least a retained agent, who will handle the whole process. For smaller clients, or those new to the market, we’ll use a dedicated IP agent with experience in agtech or agriculture.

Whichever route is applicable, we’re always excited (and relieved!) when a brand receives its formal trademark recognition; it’s the satisfying culmination of an involved process. So I can imagine that someone in Case IH will be pretty despondent about the Versum situation.

I’ll be looking out for more details on the Versum story as they appear.



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