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

LAMEBOOK v. FACEBOOK – Hilarity Ensues and Sues

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Fans of the movie The Social Network know that after Facebook took off, there was a line out the door suing Mark Zuckerberg.  But when it comes to trademarks, Facebook knows that sometimes imitation, while the sincerest form of flattery, can be bad for trademarks.

Facebook is going after numerous uses of marks containing -BOOK, including TEACHBOOK, PLACEBOOK and now LAMEBOOK.  Actually, that last one is actually suing Facebook for a judgment declaring that it does not infringe or dilute the FACEBOOK trademark, after Facebook sent several warning letters telling they they’d better stop.

Called a “hilarious, advertising-supported site” by TechCrunch, LAMEBOOK posts user-submitted content taken from another social networking site (hmm, which one) that the submitting user finds to be lame and funny.  Well, I think hilarity is not likely to save this advertising-supported site.  It’s the typical case of trademark v. First Amendment rights, and despite my love and respect of the latter, I just don’t think the parody defense will save these folks.  The fact that they’ve adopted a font style and color scheme just about identical to Facebook certainly does not help them.  I’ll be watching this one.

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On March 7, the world will know about Logorama

I hadn’t heard about this Oscar-nominated short film until a friend of mine posted the trailer on Facebook.  The 15-minute short has apparently been taken down from sites that have posted it in its entirety.  Made up of corporate logos, the movie involves a shootout between the police and a mad gunman.   Santa Cruz Sentinel’s blog The Epicenter calls it “the most subversive Oscar contender”, though you can’t tell this by watching the peppy trademark-filled trailer.

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

I Dislike the Dislike Button™

For some time now, there has been a grassroots movement among vocal Facebook (R) brand social networking site users, advocating the addition of a “dislike” button.  Now, I’m perhaps too liberal a user of the “like” button, but I have never been interested in a “dislike” button – I wouldn’t want it to be so easy for people to diss other people’s status, political views, photos and videos, etc.  Of course, if you don’t like something, you can write that – as I did when my nephew’s status was a sports injury.  But the “dislike” button would just make it too easy. 

Now there is a Facebook fan page called

Dislike Button™ is Finally Here! Add it Now!

I don’t know who started this page, or why s/he felt the need to include the TM symbol after it.  I don’t believe that DISLIKE BUTTON could be protectable as a trademark for something you click on that causes the word “dislike” to show up.   Sounds awfully generic to me.  But it’s all moot, I believe — my daughter tried the link and said it doesn’t work anyway. 

I did check the Trademark Office records and discovered that Facebook has a pending application for POKE.  I guess if you’re not literally poking someone, you can get a trademark registration for creating something really annoying to users.

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment