As if there wasn't enough animosity, misinformation and outrage to go around in the Trayvon Martin case, now the dead boy's mother is moving to trademark her son's name.
According to the Associated Press,
(A)n attorney for Martin's mother confirmed that she filed trademark applications for two slogans containing her son's name: "Justice for Trayvon" and "I Am Trayvon." The applications said the trademarks could be used for such things as DVDs and CDs. The trademark attorney, Kimra Major-Morris, said in an email that Fulton wants to protect intellectual property rights for "projects that will assist other families who experience similar tragedies." Asked if Fulton had any profit motive, the attorney replied: "None."
Some might argue that the trademark applications have nothing to do with innocence, guilt, or the character of the grieving family; this is just how things are done in America now and those looking for ulterior motives probably understand outrage more than trademark law.
The Trayvon Martin tragedy, about an unarmed teen shot and killed by a Florida gated community watch volunteer last month, has become the rallying cry for a nation against everything from racial profiling to "stand your ground" justified shooting laws.
As a national sensation, Trayvon's name has been co-opted by all manner of opportunist, from the social to the commercial. Already, eBay is flooded with merchandise bearing the "I am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon" marks for which the dead youth's mother, Sybrina Fulton, filed patents. A few examples:
And a nice use of Skittles, the brand that's become the calling card for the protesters.
And yes, Travyonmartin.com is already registered. The domain was scooped up privately by proxy registration on March 16. JusticeForTrayvon.com was grabbed on March 21 by one Charles Wiley of Miami Gardens, FL. Oddly enough, IamTrayvon.com is an active NSFW page of strip club reviews.
Of course, for those looking to discredit the teen's parents and frame them as cynical about their grief, the trademark filing was a windfall. Right wing blog Gateway Pundit reported on the filing, adding, "It’s part of the mourning process. (Read the comments at your own peril.) Another, Weasel Zippers posted the story along with the comment, "I can’t get the “cha-ching” sound of a cash register out of my head."
Such comments reflect a complete ignorance of how brands and commerce work in the modern world. The trademark applications by Travon's mother were filed by Kimra Major-Jones, an Orlando attorney who specializes in, yes, trademark and copyright law. It is almost certain that with the attention the Martin family is getting, filing for trademark protections is just another bit of advice from counsel. In fact, one could even argue that an attorney who did not advise a trademark filing would be neglectful of his or her job.
Not long ago, Occupy Wall Street also met with derision after the movement tried to trademark its name to protect the mark. In fact, if there is a recent case of attempted trademarking that deserves scorn, it is Disney's attempt to trademark "Seal Team 6" after the Navy commandoes killed Osama Bin Laden.
By the way, for those interested in why Martin's mother filed to trademark "I am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon" but not "Trayvon Martin," it's because trademark law does not allow for trademarking of personal names unless that name is proved to have acquired an additional meaning.
What Trayvon Martin's family is doing is just sound name protection, and an anguished mother's move to protect her son ... at least his memory and reputation.