Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

Sarah Palin’s Brand

In the book Game Change,  which chronicles the antics leading up to the 2008 presidential election, the authors John Heileman and Mark Halperin describe a scene that took place soon after John McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin for running mate.  She was about to shoot some footage for campaign ads, and was having her hair done.  She sought the opinion of McCain’s media guy: “My brand is hair up, isn’t it?”  Now it seems that Palin is expanding her brand to cover “Information about political elections; Providing a website featuring information about political issues” and “Educational and entertainment services, namely, providing motivational speaking services in the field of politics, culture, business and values”.   These are the services covered in her trademark application for SARAH PALIN, filed in November 2010.  She claims that she has been rendering these services under the SARAH PALIN brand since 1996.

Daughter Bristol has been working on a career not just as a dancer but as a promoter of teen abstinence.  She also filed a trademark application in November; her application to register BRISTOL PALIN covers “Educational and entertainment services, namely, providing motivational speaking services in the field of life choices”, and she claims to have rendered these services since March of 2009.

News of these applications seems to have hit the mainstream media after the US Patent and Trademark Office examined them and issued Office Actions requiring certain actions before the marks can register.  In each case, the Palin applicant has to submit written consent to the registration of her name because her lawyer, not she, signed the application.  Some of the news reports find it funny that the Palins ran into trouble by failing to sign the applications themselves.  Also, the specimens of use submitted to support the applications (such as a Fox news story about Sarah Palin and her Facebook page) are not considered by the trademark Examiner to show actual use of the marks in connection with the services (i.e. having a Facebook page is not the same as providing a web site) so mother and daughter will have to submit new specimens if they can. 

According to news reports, the Palins’ lawyer plans to fix the current problems; assuming this is the case, Sarah Palin may eventually refer to herself as SARAH PALIN® brand motivational speaker.


February 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments