Fast food, coffee go cups, one-hour dry cleaning—Americans crave instant gratification. It’s no wonder cable lost its grip on the term "on demand." For months, IBM has been running its "Business On Demand" ad campaign in magazines (IBM filed its own "on demand" trademark application last year). Oracle is following suit. Harvey’s, the upscale electronics retailer, is advertising "installation on demand" (with an asterisk—"on demand" means service within 48 hours). And then there’s Personal On Demand Storage, a company formed in 1998. Page Thompson, VP, marketing, new video products, Comcast, says the operator looked into obtaining trademark protection for "on demand," but decided not to apply after speaking with trademark attorneys. "On its own, `on demand’ is difficult to try to trademark," Thompson says. CTAM says this difficulty partly explains why the cable industry as a whole never tried to trademark the term. Nevertheless, business information company Advanstar filed a trademark application last September for "on demand," claiming it used the term starting in 1993. Footwear company Deer Stags was granted an "on demand" trademark last June. And Mediacom was granted a trademark for Mediacom On Demand last September. When "on demand" is attached to another word or words, it’s more likely to win trademark protection. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lists 842 applications for trademarks that include the term. Dozens of trademarks have been granted to cable programming groups, or are going through the trademark application process. But with industries ranging from airlines to agriculture racing to make hay with the term, it’s looking like cable’s "on demand" will end up having the branding power of generic cola, instead of Coke.

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