Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

Mickey D’s and the Octomom

I was surprised recently when I saw an ad for McDonald’s on the side of a bus that referred to McDonald’s as “Mickey D’s”.  I thought that Mickey D’s was just what people called McDonald’s informally, not a brand that McDonald’s promotes.    I assumed this ad campaign was a new thing, so I looked up whether McDonald’s had filed any applications for MICKEY D’S.  It turns out that MICKEY D’S has been registered  since 1982 for restaurant services  and since 1991 for t-shirts and other clothing items.  has several entries for MICKEY D’S.  One refers to it as “a slang term for McDonald’s”.  Another entry correctly states that it’s “a shortened term for McDonald’s, even though you’re not saving any syllables.”   Yet another tied it into ’80’s culture: “Trademarked by McDonalds [sic] back in 82. It was a time when HipHop, Breakdancing, and Rap was [sic] making it’s [sic] debut on a national level…”   Other entries are too off-color for inclusion here. 

I still suspect that this nickname was coined by some kids trying to make McDonald’s sound cool, not by the fast-food franchise itself.   I can think of one other example of a nickname being invented by third parties and then adopted as a trademark by the entity to whom it refers:  OCTOMOM.   The media, not Nadya Suleman, mother of 14, invented this term.  But Suleman has two applications pending for OCTOMOM: one for a reality TV show (big shock) and the other for some clothing items as well as disposable diapers (by now Suleman has used a few landfills’ worth, I’m sure).

Unfortunately for Suleman, a company called Super Happy Fun Fun, Inc. beat her to the punch, filing an intent-to-use application for OCTOMOM one month before Suleman.  So her applications are blocked.  This could cause some Super Happy Fun Fun for some attorneys.  Think about this — in a straight trademark analysis, the Super Happy folk have priority, since Suleman was not offering any goods or services under the trademark OCTOMOM at the time Super Happy filed its application (I presume).  But could Suleman succeed in the trademark arena by arguing right of publicity?  Everyone knows about OCTOMOM and associates it with Suleman.  The Super Happy people, if they start selling OCTOMOM goods, will be trading off of her reputation (but since it doesn’t sound like Super Happy Fun to have 14 kids under the age of 9, I can’t picture there being a huge market for these goods). 

Back to the notion of third parties coining nicknames that become trademarks – perhaps Target will start running ads for Tar-ZHAY.   I can’t think of any other examples – if you can, I’d love to see them in the comments.

December 6, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,


  1. Good commentary with a touch of humor. Interesting issue. Wouldn’t it help if Sulerman was referred to as OCTOMOM directly, or asked if she could be referred to as OCTOMOM by the tv shows on which she appeared and subsequently paid for doing so? Couldn’t that amount to her in essence selling OCTOMOM services? Is it arguable, or am I waaaay off track?


    Comment by m wilks | December 10, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] I mused about nicknames coined by third parties that become trademarks  for the person, business, etc. for which the nickname is coined.  I couldn’t think of many, […]

    Pingback by The House that Who Built? « Trademark Musings | December 14, 2009 | Reply

  3. […] mused before  about people or business claiming trademark rights in nicknames coined by third parties.  […]

    Pingback by Stephen Colbert Talks About IT’S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG « Trademark Musings | November 17, 2010 | Reply

  4. In reference to Mickey D’s it was fascinating to learn of the 1982 and 1991 registerations for the term. Here I always thought that maybe in some off way I had started it. In 1994 I was living at Glenn College Residence at LaTrobe University in Melbourne Australia. I am a Canadian and was doing an Education Diploma there. I noticed that all my Aussie friends had nicknames for everything and everyone. I was nicknamed Kozzi by my pals. One nickname rule however, was any name that started with “Mc” was automatically referred to as a Mickey and anything that started with “Mac” was referred to as Macca. As there are plenty of Irish and Scottich immigrants in Australia you can imagine there are a lot of Mickey Whatevers and Macca Whatevers. I took it upon myself to start referring to McDonalds simply as Mickey D’s. Being a group of male Uni students we frequented the local Mickey D’s often. The term stuck with my little group. I returned to Vancouver at the end of 1994 and kept using the term ever since. I thought maybe the term stuck over there and spread. But with the registered trademarks being in 1982 and 1991 it predates my use. Maybe just a case of great minds think alike.

    Comment by Chris Castellarin | May 14, 2012 | Reply

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