TIME 2016 Election

Donald Trump Applied to Trademark ‘Trumpublican’ and ‘Trumpocrat’

The trademarks are currently classified as abandoned

Businessman and presidential hopeful Donald Trump wanted to add some new trademarks to his collection.

The Washington Post reports the Trump team filed applications to trademark “Trumpocrat” and “Trumpublican” earlier this year. The trademarks are currently classified as abandoned, but they can still be looked up through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database.

This isn’t the first time Trump has made use of the trademark office. The real estate magnate has already secured some notable trademarks through the years, the Post notes, including “The Board Room” and “Miss Photogenic Teen USA.”

Trump’s latest applications would have covered the use of the terms on a variety of items, from T-shirts to cufflinks.

[The Washington Post]

MONEY Taylor Swift

Can Taylor Swift Really Trademark “This Sick Beat”? Yes, and Here’s Why

Musician Taylor Swift
Michael Stewart—WireImage Taylor Swift has also trademarked our hearts.

Taylor Swift just tried to trademark "This Sick Beat." Here's why she can, and why it makes a whole lot of financial sense.

The internet almost exploded Thursday over news that pop star (and freshly minted New Yorker) Taylor Swift has trademarked the phrases “This Sick Beat,” “Nice to Meet You. Where You Been?,” and “Party Like It’s 1989,” among others.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Contrary to many reports, Swift has not yet been granted any of these trademarks—she’s merely applied for them and is awaiting approval by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

But we still had a lot of questions, like “Can you really trademark a greeting?,” “Would Taylor actually sue me? We’re like besties…,” and “Can I trademark my own ridiculous catch phrases?”

For answers to these pressing issues, we called Christopher Sprigman, a professor at NYU Law School specializing in trademark law, and a man way too knowledgeable and respected to address this nonsense. But instead of hanging up the phone, the professor kindly took us on a magical tour through some of the basic rules of intellectual property.

Turns out, you can pretty much trademark anything you want as long as you follow a few guidelines. First, your trademark can’t be a “generic” term, i.e. the commonly used name of the product you’re trying to sell. An obvious example is that no one can get a trademark for the exclusive use of the word “salt” to sell salt shakers.

Next, your trademark can’t be something that’s entirely descriptive. So, to use Sprigman’s example, you can’t trademark “salty” to use on boxes of Saltine-style crackers. That wouldn’t be fair to someone else who wants to tell customers their snack is salty, too.

But if your trademark is “arbitrary” (meaning it has no connection with the good or service it’s being affixed to) or “fanciful” (meaning it has no inherent meaning at all, like Kodak) you’re generally in the clear.

That’s why, for example, Apple can trademark the word “Apple” to sell computers. (The company couldn’t, on the other hand, trademark Apple brand apples because that would probably be considered both generic and descriptive.)

Just as the word Apple is arbitrary when applied to a laptop, Taylor Swift’s lyrics are equally arbitrary when placed on a Christmas stocking or a “non-medicated preparation for the care of skin”—two of the products that T-Swift has applied for trademarks on.

“I don’t think ‘This Sick Beat’ is descriptive of Christmas stockings,'” Sprigman observes.

The professor also thinks Swift is ahead of the curve when it comes to trademarking random song lyrics. The rise of streaming makes it increasingly difficult for artists to monetize their music, leaving musicians to look for new ways to make money. “The music industry isn’t dying,” says Sprigman, “the music industry is changing. And different revenue sources are coming to the fore, and one of them is merchandise.”

That’s especially true for Taylor Swift, who recently removed her music from Spotify, the largest streaming music provider. “She’s no dummy,” Sprigman adds. “This strategy for her makes quite a bit of sense.”

So it looks like Swift is going to be fine here. But what about you and me? Can anyone just trademark random symbols and phrases?

The answer is probably yes, assuming you choose a phrase that’s distinctive enough. And as long as it’s not descriptive or generic and no one else has trademarked it or is already using it commercially, you probably will be in the clear. One Brooklyn artist even managed to trademark the pi symbol with a period after it.

Basically, all you need to do is pay an electronic filing fee ($225 to $325, plus maintenance fees), stay within the rules we’ve described, and you can be just like Taylor.

Except not famous or talented. But you both can at least sell Christmas stockings with a trademarked thing on them. And that’s something. Right?

 

 

TIME marketing

Vermont Man Wins Right to Use ‘Eat More Kale’ Slogan, Despite Chick-Fil-A Objections

Bo Muller-Moore stands in his home studio in Montpelier, Vt. Muller-Moore, the Vermont man who is building a business around the term "eat more kale," which has been plastered on T-shirts, bumper stickers and other items, is running into opposition from the second largest fried chicken retailer in the country, Chick-fil-A, on Nov. 22, 2011.
Toby Talbot—AP Bo Muller-Moore stands in his home studio in Montpelier, Vt. Muller-Moore, the Vermont man who is building a business around the term "eat more kale," which has been plastered on T-shirts, bumper stickers and other items, is running into opposition from the second largest fried chicken retailer in the country, Chick-fil-A, on Nov. 22, 2011.

Bo Muller-Moore is now free to print the phrase on T-shirts

Correction appended

The Vermont man who went up against Chik-fil-A to defend his right to use the phrase “Eat More Kale” — which the fast food company argued was too close to its trademarked slogan “Eat Mor Chikin” — has won his legal battle to use the trademark.

Bo Muller-Moore can now silkscreen “Eat More Kale” onto T-shirts to his heart’s content, because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved his request to trademark the phrase. The application was held up for a while, but a “black-out-period” for Muller-Moore’s request ended on Tuesday, his lawyer said.

The approval comes after a drawn-out battle with Chik-fil-A over the use of the slogan. Muller-Moore started selling T-shirts with the phrase “Eat More Kale” in 2000 after a kale farmer friend asked him to make them.

But shortly after Muller-Moore attempted to trademark the phrase in 2011, Chik-fil-A sent him a letter requesting he stop using the saying because it was too similar to their “Eat Mor Chikin” catchphrase, and listed 30 other companies who had agreed to stop using the “eat more” language in their marketing.

Muller-Moore is expected to make a formal announcement of the victory Friday with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin.

The original version of this story misidentified Muller-Moore’s phrase, “Eat More Kale.” It is a trademark.

TIME Trademark

John ‘the Duke’ Wayne’s Heirs Sue Duke U Over Booze Label

Chevrolet Presents Glen Campbell and The Musical West
NBC—NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images John Wayne a.k.a. the Duke

The famous actor’s family has been tangling with the university over the use of Wayne’s nickname for years

The descendants of cowboy-movie icon John Wayne have sued Duke University over the school’s objection to their use of Wayne’s nickname, the Duke, on alcoholic beverages.

Last year, Duke University filed an objection with the U.S. Trademark Office after John Wayne Enterprises attempted to trademark all uses of the term Duke on alcoholic beverages except beer, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

In response, the family of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has now sued Duke over the objection on the grounds that “Duke University is not and never has been in the business of producing, marketing, distributing, or selling alcohol,” according to the complaint. “Duke University does not own the word ‘Duke’ in all contexts for all purposes,” the family charges.

According to the family, John Wayne, who was born Marion Robert Morrison, got the nickname as a child from local firefighters in his Iowa hometown, who gave the kid that moniker because that was the name of his dog.

[THR]

TIME NFL

It’s Time for the Redskins to Change Their Name — or Be Buffoons

Dan Snyder is out of excuses

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen landmark shifts in sports. Not that long ago, these movements and actions seemed like long shots at best. An openly gay player suited up for an NBA team, another one was drafted by an NFL franchise. The Ed O’Bannon trial, which is playing out in court in Northern California, threatens the amateur model in college sports. A group of Northwestern players have voted on whether or not to unionize. The NFL settled a lawsuit, brought by former players, that claimed the league was negligent in its handling of concussions — though the amount of money the league ultimately doles out may change.

These are big moves. And now, finally, the easy one — the controversy with such a frustratingly common-sense solution that it should really never have been a controversy at all — got a nice win on Wednesday. If Daniel Snyder now doesn’t just give in and change the name of the Washington Redskins, a nickname that is clearly offensive to some segment of the American population, he will set an all-time record for ownership buffoonery. And if the other NFL owners, led by commissioner Roger Goodell — a man who has long taken pride in doing what he sees as the right thing — don’t squeeze Snyder hard enough so that he changes the name, they’re all officially a bunch of rich buffoons as well.

Goodell & Co. may put more pressure on Snyder, because Wednesday’s ruling by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceling the Redskins’ federal trademark registrations could hit the owners where it hurts most: their wallets. Licensed merchandise creates revenue not only for the Redskins but also for all 32 NFL teams who share it. The ruling does not mean the Redskins legally have to change their name or stop selling Redskins merchandise. But the lack of federally registered trademark protections means counterfeiters selling T-shirts with the Redskins name could have more of a claim to cash that normally goes into the NFL revenue pie. “For the owners, this has gone from a moral to a financial issue,” says Warren Zola, sports-law expert at the Caroll School of Management at Boston College.

Practically, the ruling could challenge the NFL’s ability to enforce its trademark protection, says Christine Haight Farley, a trademark-law expert and professor at the American University Washington College of Law. If the ruling withstands appeal — and the Redskins are sure to appeal it — and a counterfeiter starts selling merchandise with the Redskins name, with a design that the patent office has deemed a canceled trademark, that person would likely receive a cease-and-desist letter claiming that while the trademark is unregistered, the Redskins have a common-law claim to the mark. The big question, says Farley, is, If the counterfeiter then challenged the Redskins claim in a federal court, would that court protect a trademark that another federal government entity has canceled and deemed “disparaging to Native Americans”? In some recent cases, Farley says, courts have not protected unregistered marks that have been denied registration under the trademark act. “A federal court may deny a remedy to a party who comes to court with unclean hands,” Farley says.

More important, really, is the timing and wording of the decision. The anti-Redskins movement has been boiling. In May, 50 U.S. Senators signed a letter asking the Redskins to consider changing the name. An effective anti-Redskins ad ran during the NBA Finals. And now the U.S. government has ruled that the term is indeed offensive. Last year, USA Today asked Snyder if he would consider changing the name it he lost the trademark lawsuit. “We’ll never change the name,” he said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

The government canceled the trademarks. It’s time for Snyder to cancel those caps.

TIME

The 450 Companies That Still Have Indian Mascots

A federal agency has ruled that the Washington Redskins' name disparages Native Americans. Hundreds of other companies use Native American images to sell their wares. Here's what their logos look like

The Washington Redskins lost their trademark (pending appeal) on Wednesday after a federal agency ruled that the football team’s name is “disparaging to Native Americans.”

While the team will no longer have exclusive rights to its name, it is far from the last business to use Native American imagery in its merchandise. The United States Patent and Trademark Office categorizes all logos by the images they contain. Those records include over 600 active trademarks for insignia that feature Native American men and women, registered to 450 different companies. In most cases, no one is accusing these companies of disparagement. If faced with an action the agency evaluates whether trademarks were disparaging at the time of their registration.

Here’s a look at all the Native American imagery trademarked in the U.S. from the now-defunct Redskins logo to Land O’Lakes butter and American Spirit cigarettes.

Tap or mouse over a logo to see the owner and description.

 

TIME Thailand

McDonald’s to Thai Protesters: Lay Off the Golden Arches

THAILAND-POLITICS
MANAN VATSYAYANA—AFP/Getty Images Thai-army soldiers stand guard outside a McDonalds outlet ahead of a planned gathering in Bangkok on May 25, 2014.

Imitation isn't always flattery, at least not when it comes to appropriating the burger chain's logo to protest the military coup there

McDonald’s has warned Thailand’s anti-coup protesters to “cease and refrain” from copying its logo onto protest signs or face “appropriate measures.”

The warning came as protesters rallying near a McDonald’s in Bangkok began carrying signs that read “democracy,” only with “m” replaced by McDonald’s iconic golden arches.

“Such aforesaid use of the McDonald’s logo, symbol and trademark was carried out without any participation, authorisation [sic] , acceptance or endorsement whatsoever on the part of McThai Co., Ltd.,” read an official statement posted to McDonald’s Thai Facebook page.

Just in case the chain’s apolitical aspiration to sell burgers wasn’t clear enough, the company added, “McThai has and continues to maintain a neutral stance in the current political situation in Thailand.” Red shirt or yellow shirt, all are welcome to a happy meal.

TIME

A ‘Dumb Starbucks’ Opens with the Word ‘Dumb’ Affixed to Everything

Would you like milk in your dumb iced coffee? A concept shop in Los Angeles is taking trademark to task by lampooning the Seattle-based coffee chain with a direct copy of its stores, but with the word 'dumb' before everything

Take a Starbucks coffee shop, affix the word “dumb” to everything in sight, and you’ve got the idea behind a new concept store in Los Angeles that is attempting a gloriously dumb end run around the U.S. trademark system.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Dumb Starbucks” opened this weekend with an offer of free drinks, from “Dumb Caramel Macchiato” to “Dumb Chai Tea Latte,” available in sizes ranging from “Dumb Tall” to “Dumb Venti.”

Pictures on social media showed a line of customers extending out of the front door, which had above it a perfect facsimile of the Starbucks logo, albeit with the word “dumb” squeezed into the outer ring. The scrupulous dumb theme even extended to the CD’s at the front counter, which titles such as “Dumb Norah Jones Duets” and “A Dumb Taste of Cuba.”

Workers handed dumbstruck customers a printed FAQ which stated that it was in fact a real business, but, “for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art,” which means a judge may soon have to decide if art can imitate business.

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