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trademark wars

U.S. Navy Finally Applies To Trademark "Seals"

Posted by Abe Sauer on May 23, 2011 10:00 AM

The Navy Seals' next mission? Trademark themselves before Disney does.

Last week we reported that NovaLogic, Inc. had attempted to trademark "Seal Team 6" in both 2002 and 2004, years before Disney applied for the same trademark just days after the announcement identifying that specific team as the one that killed Osama bin Laden. Both of NovaLogic's applications were dormant at the time of Disney's application.

They weren't the only ones sensing a branding opportunity. On May 13, ten days after Disney's post-bin Laden application, the U.S. Department of the Navy filed two trademark applications.

Application serial numbers 85320305 and 85320473 are Department of the Navy applications for trademarks for both "Navy Seals" and "Seal Team." The marks cover all goods and services "Indicating membership in a(n) to indicate membership in an organization of the Department of the Navy that develops and executes military missions involving special operations strategy, doctrine, and tactics" as well as "posters" and "clothing."

The attorney filing the application has worked with the Dept. of the Navy before. Last month he filed a trademark application on behalf of the Navy for the term "Old Ironsides," the nickname of the famed early man-of-war USS Constitution.

It would seem that the Navy has recently become aware of the value of the marks under its command.

Late last year, on December 3rd, the Department of the Navy's subsidiary U.S. Marine Corps, applied to trademark its iconic and legendary seal along with the term "UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY SEMPER FIDELIS."

The application's description of the mark reads: "The mark consists of a globe with shadowing lines, an eagle with shadowing lines perched atop the globe, and an anchor and anchor rode with shadowing lines positioned partially behind the globe, with shadowing lines on them wrapped around the top and bottom of the anchor. The eagle is holding in its mouth a banner that reads "SEMPER FIDELIS". Surrounding this eagle, globe and anchor configuration is a circular field with the words "DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY" and "UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS" written within, with those two segments separated by triangles. Surrounding this is a stylized braided rope."

Not to be outdone by its service peer, it wasn't until August 26, 2010 that the Department of the Army moved to trademark "U.S. ARMY." (It was granted in March 2011.)

Interestingly, the Navy claims "first use" of the mark as Dec. 31, 1962 and first commercial use of the mark that same day. While the current logo was adopted in 1955, December 1962 was one of the first fundraisers for The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation (New York Leatherneck Ball).

It seems odd the Navy did not apply for these marks years ago, seeing as there is evidence it understood the value of them. In September 2006, the Navy applied to trademark "TOP GUN UNITED STATES NAVY FIGHTER WEAPONS SCHOOL" — 20 years after Tom Cruise's star turn in the Top Gun movie made the phrase and the school a household name.

The Navy's belated "Top Gun" trademark was granted in April 2008, which suggests Disney might lose its application to the Navy's. Then again, maybe not. A 2003 application by the U.S. Army to trademark the nickname for its special forces "Green Berets" is dead as of 2007.

It would be wise for the Navy to not stop now in a move to protect the reputations of the agencies the service has spent so much money, time, and effort building. For example, another term that has received a lot of attention with regard to the bin Laden mission is "DEVGRU," or "United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group." Since May 16, three separate trademark applications have been made covering the DEVGRU acronym.


Curt Moreno United States says:

Being an American I am in full support of any and all forms of economic progress. Having said that I think that it's ludicrous that any branch of military should have to fight for a patent over the terms that identify it's division, organizations or operations.

In regards to these properties being the sole possession of any one entity they should be realized as public property. The government of the United States, operating as a publicly funded organization, should not fall victim to any corporation seeking to solely control such intellectual property. Similarly those properties should be available to any and all persons and corporations operating in the United States without fee or license.

No that isn't how the law works, but it should be. This sort of legal maneuvering, which will no doubt be contested and thus drawn out, costs this country money that should be used for other things. I venture to say that there are very few people who would argue that fighting Disney in court of the name of a US military division is a better use of taxes than say ... education.

Shame of Disney, and NovaLogic for that matter. Shame on them for attempting to control and capitalize on the tradition and sacrifices of this nations servicemen and women.

- KFD -

May 26, 2011 08:53 PM #

Merchandising Peru Peru says:

Very good commentary by KFD (Curt Moreno). I think there are names who shouldn't be used in a commercial manner, because they are a natural property of a country not a corporation.

May 30, 2011 02:47 AM #

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