10/05/2012 06:50 pm ET

Dunkin' Donuts Aims To Own "Best Coffee In America" Trademark

You've heard the phrase so many times, it's hardly worth more than a lukewarm cup of coffee.

"Best in America" might be a bit tired, but that hasn't stopped Dunkin' Donuts from trying to own it. On Sept. 26, the company filed to register the phrase "Best Coffee In America" as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If the office approves the request, Dunkin' Donuts will own the exclusive rights to use the words to sell coffee, the Boston Globe reported.

In the past, the Patent and Trademark Office has sometimes declined to grant registered trademarks for phrases like "Best in America." When the Boston Beer Company sought to claim the phrase "Best Beer in America," the office said the wording was too generic for any one company to own as a trademark.

Typically, companies trying to register trademarks in common phrases or images argue that they have acquired secondary meanings associated with the product or service the company sells. In 2006, Walmart tried unsuccessfully to trademark the smiley face, claiming that the image had become associated with its stores in the retail sector.

While hyperbolic language has long been used to convince people to buy stuff they don't need, "best in the world" superlatives became popular in the 19th century as trains and steamships made travel across the country and world easier, Dennis Waring writes in the book Manufacturing the Muse: "As overseas transport became more feasible ... language such as 'the oldest in the world,' 'the largest in the world,' and the 'best in the world' came into vogue."

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