For decades, manufacturers, retailers and service providers have understood the practical realities of industrial property rights protection. Distinctive signs forge a direct link between products or services and the consumers to whom they are offered.

The power of a distinctive sign essentially draws on the relationships between concept, image, stability and the quality and credibility of a product in the eyes of consumers - to which can be added the power of advertising. One of the crucial elements in the commercial success of a distinctive sign is the ability to overcome cultural and geographical barriers.

Among the key functions of such a sign is its ability to distinguish products or services from those of competitors. The need to identify the nature, quality and place of origin of products or services in this way is the main driver of progress in marketing and commercial expansion. Consumer confidence is the ultimate target of any company that supplies a product or service, and it may be difficult to recover credibility in a distinctive sign when its reputation is damaged.

However, the question remains: how can companies ensure that people associate a distinctive sign with a product or service? Put simply, this is a function of the mental process of association through memory, which stores a distinctive sign and for which this sign serves as a symbol of identification or substitution.

Memory can be stimulated by mental association processes, such as mnemonics. By using such processes, individuals may be more able to associate a distinctive sign with the memory or identification of a product or service. Moreover, the process may provide a link to the consumer's experience of the purchased goods or services and a recollection of whether they met the consumer's expectations. This factor underlies the importance of a product or service fulfilling or exceeding expectations. A distinctive sign constitutes the associative element that links to the product or service being identified.

Although a product or service must meet quality expectations if it is to survive against competitors, tools such as marketing and advertising contribute strongly to the success (or failure) of a distinctive sign and, ultimately, to commercial survival. Advertising and marketing are responsible for creating the image of a distinctive sign. In drawing on elements of its inherent distinctiveness and its visual and linguistic characteristics, they will determine its destiny and commercial acceptance.

The term 'mnemonics' is normally associated with lists of information and their corresponding rhymes or phrases. However, the mnemonic function can also be applied to other types of information and to visual forms (eg, designs and composite trademarks), in order to make specific information easier to retain.

The objective of marketing and advertising is to gain and hold ground in the minds of consumers. Mnemonics may provide an important tool to induce individuals to connect concepts with a product or service that is identified with a distinctive sign.

Along with other tools, mnemonics can be used to facilitate the thought association process, reinforcing the connection that consumers make between trademarks, slogans and other signs on the one hand, and the product or service - and their experiences of it - on the other. Faced with growing competition, product manufacturers and service providers may increasingly look to the mnemonic power of signs for a commercial advantage.

For further information on this topic please contact Carlos González Cortés at Becerril, Coca & Becerril SC by telephone (+52 55 5263 8730), fax (+52 55 5263 8731) or email ([email protected]).