Why You Can't Trademark The President's Name

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In every election year, we see a flurry of trademark applications filed by individuals that want to profit off a candidate's name. Maybe they are for the candidate, or perhaps against. Either way, filing a trademark application that includes, Trump, Hillary, or Bernie is always a waste of time and money.

Since January 1, 2016 over 100 trademark applications have been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark that have some reference to "Donald Trump." The applicants filing the marks are not "the Donald" or any business associated with Trump. Those applications have been or will be denied.

Here's Why You Can't Register A Trademark With The President's Name:

Denied registration for not having permission to use Donald Trump's name or image.

Denied registration for not having permission to use Donald Trump's name or image.

1.  You don't have permission: You need permission to use a person's name in a trademark registration.  You'll get this response in an office action refusing your application: Registration is refused because the applied-for mark consists of or comprises a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual whose written consent to register the mark is not of record.   Trademark Act Section 2(c), 15 U.S.C. §1052(c); TMEP §1206.  Without written consent, you will not be able to secure a trademark registration.

2.  Most likely you are not using the phrase, slogan, or mark as a trademark: If you decided to produce t-shirts, hats or other clothing using the candidate's (or President's) name or likeness, you may get a refusal that your use is merely ornamental. Registration is refused because the applied-for mark as used on the specimen of record is merely a decorative or ornamental feature of applicant’s clothing and, thus, does not function as a trademark to indicate the source of applicant’s clothing and to identify and distinguish applicant’s clothing from others.  Trademark Act Sections 1, 2, and 45, 15 U.S.C. §§1051-1052, 1127.  With respect to clothing, consumers may recognize small designs or discrete wording as trademarks, rather than as merely ornamental features, when located, for example, on the pocket or breast area of a shirt.  Consumers may not, however, perceive larger designs or slogans as trademarks when such matter is prominently displayed across the front of a t-shirt. 

Trademark Application Review Process is Bi-Partisan:

Don't worry that some trademark applications may be accepted and other's denied just because the trademark examining attorney is Republican or Democrat. The rules are applied equally. Since 2008 over 150 trademark applications have been filed by people not related to President Obama that contain the word Obama. Those applications have all been denied registration.

Denied for not having consent to use Obama's name. This application was filed by POM Wonderful. You would think they wouldn't have any tried.

Denied for not having consent to use Obama's name. This application was filed by POM Wonderful. You would think they wouldn't have any tried.