On Nov. 19, 2012 — two weeks after Mitt Romney lost the presidential election to Barack Obama — a non-profit named Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. submitted a trademark application for the phrase “Make America Great Again.” According to the Washington Post, Trump says he dreamt up the phrase the day after Romney’s loss, unaware that Ronald Reagan had used a nearly identical slogan in 1980.
Since Trump submitted that trademark, which was approved, there have been at least 280 applications for phrases resembling his core campaign slogan — everything from “Make America Sane Again” to “Make Our Planet Great Again,” both of which are pending approval. All told, 42 have been approved, 64 rejected or withdrawn, and the rest are awaiting a verdict from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You can browse through them all below:
About half of the applications take the form of “Make [Something] Great Again” while most of the rest take the form “Make America [Some Adjective] Again.” A final 35 modify both variables, such as “Make Austin Weird Again” or “Make Hip-Hop Timeless Again.”
Whether or not he realized Reagan’s campaign had originated the phrase, Trump is not the first person to riff on Reagan’s “Let’s Make America Great Again.” There are two similar trademark applications that predate his by nearly a decade. One is the Mars, Inc. trademark of “Make Lunch a Meal Again,” submitted on March 3, 2003, and the other is the phrase “Make Me Glo Again,” a sticker that reminds aquarium owners to change the lights, submitted on June 17, 2004. Neither trademark is currently active. In some cases, the applicant submits a screenshot of the product they wish to sell, such as the following:
While he claims to have invented the phrase, Trump has very rarely attempted to prevent others from improvising on it. There are only two instances in which his organization has opposed an attempt to copyright the exact same phrase, one of which they abandoned, allowing a trademark to go through for “Make America Great Again” lighters.
When one submits a trademark application, it is assigned an examining attorney who looks for any conflict, including a search of existing, active trademarks and a basic Google search, says trademark expert Josh Gerben of the Gerben Law Firm. “If they find a particular name or phrase is a popular meme, they can deny the application for failing to function as a trademark,” he said. The standard for whether an application is approved, Gerben said, is “whether the consumer would be confused about the source of the product.”
The examiners “are not taking any overly aggressive approach here,” Gerben said of the improvisations on “Make America Great Again.” To his point, most of the rejected applications were nullified by failures on the part of the applicant to cooperate with the bureaucracy in a timely fashion. Still, there’s some inconsistency in whether the examining attorney allows a similar phrase to go through. One attempt to trademark “Make America America Again” was rejected for its similarity to Trump’s slogan, while a brand of cheese graters with the moniker “Make America Grate Again” appears to be poised for approval.
Meanwhile, Gerben notes that it is not permissible to trademark a phrase that references a living person, leading to many rejected applications for phrases like “Dudes for Donald.”
Design by Robin Muccari
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