Pick a Number…

How popular is your favorite number – and why? I’ve recently learned that numbers, like abbreviations, can be protected under the Lanham Act (trademark protection). Of course, like any trademark, we have to look at the mark in relation to the good. Thus, I couldn’t register “M5” and prevent anyone from using it, but I might prevent anyone from using it to identify a car. Indeed, just this month BMW registered “M5” for key chains, mouse pads, cuff links, etc. (D-oh, mental note: scratch that idea to start marketing M5 cuff links.) (For more info, check out uspto.gov and look up trademark registration #2683596.)
Okay, so “M5” isn’t really a number, but “777” is registered for cattle vaccines (1223871), sealants (1373772), vitamins (1135481), flashlights (1779611), and more – so there.
This morning however, I am truly fascinated not by the legal protection of numbers, but by their cultural popularity (keeping in mind that ours is a consumer culture). That’s why I’m so impressed with The Secret Lives of Numbers, a beautiful interface to illustrate the most popular numbers and the associations that make numbers popular (often products, but also years, codes, etc.) at various points in time. (via David Galbraith)