issue: February 2013 ApplianceMagazine.com
Which Oven is the True (Trademarked) Smart Oven?
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Three companies (at least) have been using variations of the term "Smart Oven" in the name of cooking appliances in different parts of the world in recent years.
Will there be battle over who gets to trademark the term--or has "Smart" become too commonplace to be worth fighting over?
Electrolux in Australia applied for the trademark "Smart Oven" more than a year ago, but in the last several weeks two more Australian appliance players, Samsung and Breville, have also applied for very similar appliance product trademarks, as first reported by Current.com.au.
In fact, Current.com.au writer Patrick Avenell inadvertently provided the impetus for the two recent applications. Recent articles by Avenell describe how Samsung Australia filed for its trademark after learning, from Current.com.au, about the application pending for Electrolux. Breville, upon reading about Electrolux and Samsung, then filed its own application.
But the potential trademark conflicts could spread as these global appliance companies each tries to (or continues to) leverage the power of the word "Smart" in their appliances around the world.
And these three are not the only appliance companies marketing appliances with "Smart" names.
Breville's countertop appliance, named The Smart Oven(TM),
Australian Smart Oven Trademarks
Australian trademarks, patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property are regulated by the federal government agency IP Australia.
Electrolux Home Products Pty. Ltd., according to a record in the IP Australia database, applied for the trademark "Smart Oven" on Dec. 8, 2011. Like the Samsung and Breville applications, the trademark is applied-for under Goods & Services Class 11. Specifically, the application applies to: "Appliances and installations for cooking including stoves, ovens, and cooktops; parts of and fittings for the foregoing included in this class."
Electrolux--unlike Samsung and Breville applications that followed--also applied for the trademark under Goods & Services Class 37; specifically for: "Installation and repair services in respect of appliances and installations for cooking including stoves, ovens, and cooktops."
Electrolux does sell an AEG brand oven in Australia with a variation of the trademark--the NaviSight Pyrolytic SMART Oven. The oven has an LCD touch control navigation menu, to provide the user access to pre-programmed recipes "and make oven operations intuitively simple." The oven has been on the market in Australia since 2007.
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (the Samsung parent company in Korea) applied for the trademark "SAMSUNG Smart Oven" on Feb. 7, 2013. Samsung filed for the trademark under Goods & Services Class 11; the application specifies that the trademark is for: "Electric ovens; microwave ovens."
Samsung does not appear to have a product currently on the market in Australia that uses a variation of the name "Smart Oven." However, a Samsung "Smart Oven" is being sold in India and another product using that name is launching this month (February 2013) in the UK and other markets.
Breville Pty. Ltd., which is based in Australia, applied for the trademark "THE SMART OVEN" on Feb. 19, 2013. Breville filed for the trademark under Goods & Services Class 11. Breville's application specifies that the trademark is for: "Electric counter top cooking ovens; parts, fittings and accessories for the aforesaid goods."
Breville currently sells a countertop appliance called "The Smart Oven (TM)" in Australia. Its a convection-cooking appliance, described as an "oven that moves heat, where and when it's needed." The "smarts" in the appliance name refers to programmable control of five upper and lower heating elements to suit the specific needs of the food being cooked.
In fact, in Australia the company sells a line of appliances with "Smart" in the name:
* the Smart Oven (TM)
* the Smart Grill
* the Smart Grinder (TM)
* the Smart Toast (TM)
* the Smart Fryer (TM)
* the Smart Kettle (TM)
Only "the Smart Grill" is not indicated as being trademarked.
All the trademark applications--from Electrolux, Samsung, and Breville--are currently listed by IP Australia as having no Oppositions. However, IP Australia gives opponents three months from "the date the acceptance of your application was advertised" to file a Notice of Opposition. Acceptance for the Australian Electrolux trademark is due on June 21, 2013. The Samsung and Breville applications have not yet been assigned Acceptance Due dates.
There is apparently plenty of time for any of the three companies to oppose the applications of the others.
Electrolux's AEG brand sells the NaviSight Pyrolytic SMART Oven in Australia and New Zealand.
Australian and New Zealand consumers have a number of cultural and consumer similarities, and therefore similar marketing approaches are often used for the two markets by global appliance companies.
Electrolux, for example, sells the same AEG brand oven, the NaviSight Pyrolytic SMART Oven, in New Zealand as it does in Australia. (The oven may have been sold under the same name in the UK and other markets, but those sales appear to have been discontinued.)
Interestingly, Electrolux let its "Smart Oven" application in New Zealand lapse before the trademark could even be registered.
Electrolux (NZ) Limited did apply to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) for the "Smart Oven" trademark. The application was made on Dec. 8, 2011--the same day the application was made in Australia. The application does make reference to the fact that Electrolux was making use of the name inside New Zealand at the time. However, after receiving no response from Electrolux to a compliance report, the application's status was changed by the New Zealand authority, on Dec. 12, 2012, to "Abandoned."
Breville likewise sells "the Smart Oven(TM)" in New Zealand, although a search of IPONZ shows no "Smart Oven" trademark for Breville in the country.
Samsung does not appear to be selling products in New Zealand that use the term "Smart Oven."
Electrolux does not appear to be selling appliances that use the "Smart Oven" name, aside from its AEG brand in Australia and New Zealand. AEG does have brand presence in Canada, although none of its Canadian products use the "Smart Oven" name.
The name is also absent from AEG or other Electrolux products in the United States. AEG brand presence in the United States is quite limited--U.S. consumers can buy the Canadian lineup of AEG-brand appliances through importer Euro-Line Appliances.
None of the other Electrolux brands with a significant U.S. market presence--including Electrolux, Electrolux Icon, and Frigidaire--are currently marketing appliances with "Smart Oven" as part of the name.
Samsung, likewise, does not have appliances named "Smart Oven" actively on the market United States.
However, on Feb. 6, 2013, Samsung did file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark office to register the trademark "SAMSUNG SMART OVEN."
Breville does sell its countertop "the Smart Oven(TM)" in North America and Canada.
In the United States, the trademark "Smart Oven" was registered to Breville in the United States on April 24, 2012.
In Canada, Breville applied for a trademark on the term "SMART OVEN" in December of 2010. Breville's application with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office claims the term has been used in Canada since as early as July 2008.
Europe and Elsewhere
The Samsung Smart Oven Model CQ138S-G (pictured) has been on the market in India. The company emphasizes the speed-cooking capabilities of the oven, which combines convection, grill, microwave, and conventional cooking capabilities in a single appliance. On Feb. 4, 2013, Samsung launched the Model MC32F606 Smart Oven (not pictured) in the UK. The emphasis here is on technology that senses a food's surface temperature once a second, combining that data with cavity humidity readings to cook food automatically, even from frozen.
Europe and Elsewhere
It's unclear when Electrolux used the precise term "Smart Oven" on AEG-brand or other appliances sold in the Europe in years past.
Breville does sell its appliances in the UK and Europe, and "the Smart Oven" countertop appliance is sold by some European internet retailers.
Samsung has had a UK trademark on a "Smart Oven" logo since January of 2006, according to the UK Intellectual Property Office.
What's in a Name
Obviously the term Smart Oven is being used in many markets without being trademarked. Will there be a battle for rights to the term, in Australia and beyond?
Or has the term "Smart" simply become too generic to be worth fighting over?
Appliance Magazine began writing about "Smart Appliances" in the 1990s, when the term could be applied to almost any appliance that used electronic controls, i.e., intelligence.
(One of the earliest manifestation of the term "Smart" used to promote appliance intelligence to consumers was the Smart Drive washing machine motor, launched by Fisher and Paykel Appliances Ltd. in 1992.)
Electronic component prices continued falling, year after year, and electronics broadly replaced electromechanical controls in appliances. By the old definition, a large share of appliances had become "smart."
Today the term is still applied broadly. "Smart" is commonly used in product releases, blogs, and internet retail sites to describe any appliance with user programmability and/or networkability.
Googling a phrase like "smart appliance" returns hundreds of thousands of hits, which might indicate that the term's use is so widespread it's becoming generic.
But appliance OEMs do apparently see continued market value in the term.
A January 4, 2013 press release from Korean appliance maker LG Electronics, describing new appliances and home control systems exhibited at this year's CES show, used the word "smart" 74 times. "Smart" was used in the release to describe Proper Noun product features such as Smart Manager, Smart Diagnosis (TM), Smart Access, and Smart Adapt. It was also used to more generically describe an appliance's capability, as in "convenience-enhancing smart home appliances..." and "LG's smart refrigerator...".
And, yes, one of the products is named "LG Smart Oven."