Importance of the Trademark:
Before 1990, ads in Hemmings or other magazines described unrestored cars in many ways (original, unrestored, authentic, genuine, stock, preserved, etc.) but the term “Survivor” cars was never used. Then things began to change. David Burroughs, who created Gold Certification in 1978, created the standards and process for judging original unrestored Corvettes in 1989. Bloomington Gold then immediately registered SURVIVOR® (and BENCHMARK®) with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as the brand names for Authenticating Certain Collectible Automobiles.
Like an explosion over the past five years, Survivor has been used by people all over the world as a descriptive icon like “hot rod” or “muscle car.” However, unlike hot rod or muscle car, Survivor® is a brand name. Unlike hot rods and muscle cars which are vague in definition (and were never trademarked), Survivor has a very clear and distinct definition, set of standards, and process which must be met in order to be properly used. So, a more parallel comparison is that Survivor is often used more along the lines of Xerox, Kleenex, Scotch tape, and Vise Grips. People are so familiar and comfortable with these trademarked brand names that they don’t think twice about using them as generic descriptions of these different product categories. But it is misuse, nonetheless.
Nearly 20 years after it was coined by Bloomington Gold, some enthusiasts have the mistaken impression that Bloomington Gold was trying to hijack the term Survivor from the car collector community. Just the opposite was true. Bloomington Gold has made significant effort to protect the integrity of the brand it created nearly 20 years ago. We have communicated through articles, websites, and personal conversations with leaders and the media to educate the community why it is important to object to its improper usage. It is damaging because it dilutes the “value” in having a clear and set standard—symbolized by the SURVIVOR mark—to assess vehicles in terms of their unrestored condition. This value is not so much to Bloomington Gold as it is to the people who obtain SURVIVOR Certification for their cars.
In other words, the Bloomington Gold SURVIVOR process adds value to the vehicle and the owner can then communicate that value to potential buyers (in ads, at auction, etc.) by use of the SURVIVOR mark. With one single word, the buying public then understands much more fully the nature and quality of the vehicle being promoted or sold. That is an important "short hand" communication technique that is real and meaningful. If it wasn’t, why would so many people be so emotional about wanting to use it? However, when others misuse the mark and refer to anything and everything as a "Survivor", the collector that has the real SURVIVOR certification has lost real value--in terms of real dollars--because of such misuse. Without our efforts to protect, educate and provide true SURVIVOR Certification to all marques, the mark will become so diluted as to be meaningless. That would be a great loss.
Thus, not only will Bloomington Gold lose a valuable trademark, but the interested public will no longer be able to rely upon that trademark as a set "standard" with a set "value". Everyone in the collector car community loses in such a scenario.
Course of Action:
Rather than chasing people away from our brand name through lawsuits, Bloomington Gold believes it is important for the greater good of the entire collector car community, to pull them closer through education, inspiration, and inclusion into our process. In short, we need to offer our Survivor Certification process to any other marque whose judges are willing and able to meet the same high standards Bloomington Gold requires for its Corvette judges. Certified SURVIVOR judges may then award SURVIVOR Certification to the cars within the marque for which they themselves have been trained, tested, and certified by Bloomington Gold. Permanent records including photo documentation, signed inspection forms, and any important notes would then be kept in master files at Bloomington Gold headquarters for future reference and authentication. This way the entire collector car community (far beyond Bloomington Gold) contributes to the preservation of not only these wonderful automobiles but also the integrity of the long standing SURVIVOR standards.
To this end, Bloomington Gold is embarking upon a three-year plan to put this industry-wide process into place.
Once a marque has bona fide Certified SURVIVOR Judges, that judging team has the authority to sign off SURVIVOR Certified cars for which they are qualified and the owners have the right to use the SURVIVOR trademark in ads, displays, descriptions, etc. etc. as long as it is associated with the car to which it was awarded.