Healthcare Brand Confusion

If you thought the healthcare bill was confusing, just wait until you take a look at one of the brands that’s come out of it.

While watching the baseball game a few weeks ago, we saw an ad for Connect for Health Colorado. The slogan said “When insurance companies compete, you win!” (We searched far and wide, but we couldn’t find a video, so you’ll have to take our word for it.)

It seems like a normal enough ad – until we realized that if you replace “insurance companies” with “banks”, you get Lending Tree’s slogan!

A few days later, Connect for Health Colorado ran a similar ad with a slightly different slogan – “When insurance companies compete, the only winner is you“. That’s the ad found on their site right now. So, why did they change it?


The Right to Use a Slogan

Our first thought was to look into trademark law. Does Lending Tree have the rights to all slogans that might be similar to their name?

First, a little clarification between copyrights and trademarks. Basically, copyrights apply to works of art. Having a copyright means that you have the right to use, reproduce, or sell a piece – and you can also sell the full or partial right to others. A trademark exists for a business name, logo, or slogan. As we’ve mentioned before, owning a trademark means that you have the right to use that trademark for your product, service, or business; trademarks are used to make money.

It turns out that only about 5% of trademark applications are actually accepted. In order for a slogan to be accepted, it has to be incredibly unique, and specifically describe the nature of the business. Lending Tree has a trademark on their slogan – but it’s still not illegal for Connect for Health Colorado to be using it.

Likelihood of Confusion

There’s one big caveat to trademark law: it’s not considered trademark infringement unless there’s a likelihood of confusion. Basically, there has to be a chance that someone will confuse the infringing product for the legitimate product.

McDonald’s likely has a trademark on their name, their logo (the golden arches), and their current slogan – “I’m lovin’ it”. These trademark are in the restaurant category; no other restaurant can call themselves McDonald’s.

Let’s pretend that a man named Oneil McDonald (blame Kandra for the name) wants to open a car dealership, and call it McDonald’s Used Cars. Car dealerships don’t fall anywhere near the restaurant category, so he’s in the clear. He’s not infringing on any trademarks, unless McDonald’s also owns a trademark in the “automotive” category. There is no chance that anyone is going to confuse McDonald’s Used Cars with the restaurant.

But what if Oneil wants to start using a pair of golden arches as his logo? He might even want to use red and yellow colors on his building, and stick a clown in a yellow suit in front of his store. At that point, it’s pretty likely that his used car dealership will be confused for the fast food restaurant – and that’s trademark infringement.

So, no, Connect for Health Colorado wasn’t actually infringing on anyone’s trademark. There’s no chance that anyone will confuse an insurance company with Lending Tree, even if the taglines are similar.

Where it Gets More Confusing

While we were researching Connect for Health Colorado, we came across the site for the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange – what Connect for Health Colorado used to be called. They’re still using the original tagline, and they claim to be a legitimate site.

Except that the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange website is owned by Group Insurance Analysts – a completely unrelated company.

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We still don’t know what the relationship between the two sites is. One thing’s for sure: for all the tax money Connect for Health Colorado is asking for, they should probably spend a little of it solidifying their brand.

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