Tag Archives: retro motel signs

The Holiday Inn Brand and Trademark Concepts

The following is an assignment for my class MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations at Webster University.   This one has some pictures in it, so I thought it might be a nice change from the walls of text I’ve been publishing lately!  The only thing I changed since turning it in is rewording some references to graphics because it’s formatted slightly differently.  It’s also available as a Word document here:
“The Holiday Inn Brand and Trademark Concepts” Word Document.

The Holiday Inn Brand and Trademark Concepts

The Holiday Inn brand is a fertile source of imagery for examining legal issues concerning trademark tacking and trademark infringement. The book “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar examines the motel signage along the historic highway US Route 66 from 1938 to the 1970s in order to explain the economies and cultures behind the forms and themes of motel advertising signs of the time period (Mahar 10). The Holiday Inn lodging chain was founded during this era and the imagery associated with the Holiday Inn brand was influenced by and in turn influenced trends in the motel industry throughout the whole country (Mahar 122, 127).

Credit: “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Excerpt from page 134.
Credit: “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Excerpt from page 134.

The diagram above (Mahar 134), demonstrates minor differences in the Holiday Inn logo and signage from 1952-1957. The use of a star and a certain script lettering style is consistent even though the arrangement and number of elements is slightly different.

The following examples show how Holiday Inn added and subtracted elements and slogans to go along with its earlier trademarked elements. The Holiday Inn logo, both one-line and two-line, are registered. The Holiday Inn sign is registered with the US Patent Office, as is the colonial mascot figure that showed up on some advertising pieces and then was later dropped again. The slogans “The Nation’s Inkeeper”, “The World’s Inkeeper” and “Your Host from Coast to Coast” were all registered. The brand’s use of the colors green, yellow and white are consistent in these samples, mostly from the 1970s.

Various Holiday Inn trademarks, mostly from the 1970s.
Various Holiday Inn trademarks, mostly from the 1970s.

Holiday Inn marks demonstrate how “words, designs, colors and other devices” were used to distinguish its services from other lodgers from the 1950s through the 1970s (Trager 523). Trademark tacking is the practice of making changes to a trademark without relinquishing the old marks (Trager 519). The Holiday Inn samples shown above illustrate trademark tacking as the color scheme and script font were used over a long period of time, with other elements such as the stars and colonial mascot added and subtracted.
Following are some examples of motel signs from the classic Route 66 era that are similar to the Holiday Inn sign, to varying degrees. By looking at the dates and contexts of these signs, it seems apparent that the first Holiday Inn sign from 1952 incorporated some elements in signage that were already in use, but as the chain in turn became popular other signs for independent motels were more directly influenced by the Holiday Inn chain (Mahar 126-127).

sign_influence

Did the independent motels with signage similar to Holiday Inn engage in trademark infringement? The use of stars, the sign elements and shapes, the name “Holiday” and the color green were all used in various ways as a result of Holiday Inn’s influence (Mahar 127).

Credit: “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Diagram from page 127.
Credit: “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Diagram from page 127.

The law uses the likelihood of consumers becoming confused as one of the criteria to determine whether or not there is infringement (Trager 518). It is not enough for the marks just to be similar (Trager 519). The combination of sign elements with Holiday Inn’s colors and name recognition seems to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion with other brands who might have used a subset of the elements used by Holiday Inn but not all of them combined together.

Works Cited

Advertisement for Holiday Inn. Inkeeker’s Supply Company, Memphis, TN. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.
—. Stationery sheet. Holiday Press, Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection. 
—. Business reply letterhead. Holiday Inn Lake of Ozarks, Lake Ozark, MO. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.
—. Rate sheet. Holiday Inn Lake of Ozarks, Lake Ozark, MO. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.
—. IMART, Memphis, TN. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.
—. Back of business reply envelope. Holiday Inn Lake of Ozarks, Lake Ozark, MO. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.

“American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002.
“Motel Sign to Get Face Lift.” Between Friends, Vol 2, Issue 2, Fall 2003, pp. 1.
Rest Haven Court. DePew Advertising, Reeds Spring, MO. Postcard. Author’s personal
collection.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass
communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018. Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. Photograph of Munger Moss Motel. 2006. Author’s personal collection.
—. Photograph of the Gardenway Motel. April 2000. Author’s personal collection.
—. Photograph of Vernelle’s Motel. April 2000, Author’s personal collection.