Standard Oil isn’t a familiar brand to many modern U.S. consumers. John Rockefeller’s petroleum giant was split up by the Supreme Court back in 1911, and by the 1950s each of the 34 regional “Baby Standards” had adopted new brand names and abandoned their claim on the original Standard trademark.
All except for one. Chevron, the West Coast and Southern descendant of Standard, has strategically maintained one Standard gas station in each of its 16 states of operation, ensuring the storied name remains a legally active trademark to this day. One of them currently stands in San Francisco, California.
“They resemble any other Chevron station,” a 1997 publication of Chevron Now explained, “and all other corporate identity remains the same.” But the unusual “Standard” sign is a magic word that “keeps the brand in shape” as active intellectual property.
This all hinges on a somewhat narrow interpretation of the Trademark Law Revision Act, which requires “the bona fide use of a mark in the ordinary course of trade,” and specifically forbids token use. Does one gas station per state constitute token use? The courts have not been asked to weigh in yet, and the jury is still out.
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