As Black Lives Matter Rush Shows, All Trademark Applications Matter

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Black Lives Matter Shirts

After he was shot and killed in Florida, Trayvon Martin’s mother moved to trademark “I Am Trayvon” and “Justice for Trayvon.” Both were popular slogans among those in favor of prosecuting his killer, George Zimmerman, and those wanting more attention for the everyday racism experienced by black Americans. Her reasoning, via her attorney, was to “prevent anyone else from profiting from or exploiting Martin’s name.” Cynics found the move disturbing and suspected opportunism.

Martin’s mother was right to take pre-emptive action but trademark protections on social cause slogans are not simply extended to the first applicant, and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement proves it.

On January 22, a man associated with the organization Crazy4Shirts applied to trademark “Black Lives Matter” for use on “Graphic T-shirts; Hooded sweat shirts; Shirts and short-sleeved shirts; Shirts for infants, babies, toddlers and children; Shirts for t-shirts for men, women, boys, girls and infants.” The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected the application, citing the term’s common use “in rallies dedicated to raising awareness of civil rights, protesting violence and conveying the message of support for the same.”

Leaping to trademark a hot term associated with a news item or popular social movement is hardly new. Protesters (and t-shirt makers) both filed to trademark “Occupy Wall Street.” Last year, “ebola” was a hot trademark topic during the outbreak. The 2010 trademark “Beer Summit” is still alive (“Entertainment, namely, a continuing public policy forum show broadcast over television.”)

As with Black Lives Matter,  the USPTO also rejected trademark applications for the civil rights calls to action “I Can’t Breathe” and “Hands Up. Don’t Shoot.” — although the latter was rejected because it was too close to an existing unrelated mark.

The Black Lives Matter rejection has not stopped the flood of “matters” trademark applications though. Since last December, the following applications for trademark protection have hit the USPTO’s desk:

  • All Lives Matter (Hats; Pants; T-shirts)
  • Black Lives Matter (Christmas cards, greeting cards, calendars, blank and personalized writing journals). This application was made a month after Crazy4Shirts’ application was rejected.
  • Blue Lives Matter (Bracelets; Charity bracelet/Charitable fundraising)
  • Christian Lives Matter (Wearable garments and clothing, namely, shirts.)
  • Every Life Matters (Apparel for dancers, namely, tee shirts, sweatshirts, pants, leggings, shorts and jackets; Athletic apparel, namely, shirts, pants, jackets, footwear, hats and caps, athletic uniforms.)
  • Every Life Matters (#2) (Downloadable computer software that allows for the storage)
  • Life Matters (dietary and nutritional supplements / Water bottles sold empty / multilevel direct marketing business services) It should be noted that “Life Matters” has been a trademarked term owned since 2012 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Life Moments Matter (General Business, namely, retail store service featuring furniture and housewares)
  • Our Lives Matter (Educational Services, Namely, Conducting Workshops, Seminars And Training)
  • People’s Lives Matter (Digital media, namely, CDs, DVDs,)

This author thoroughly enjoys tweeting on the matter:

Finally, it’s worth noting that just because a trademark is not granted doesn’t mean a product is dead. Crazy4Shirts is now selling “Black Lives Matter”-branded Hanes hoodies for $46.99 (delivery not included).

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