The year isn’t over yet, but it looks like 2015 could go down in history as the year that trademark applications jumped the left shark.
We have seen a number of amusing and some unfortunate examples of applications filed with the USPTO to register meme trademarks and brand pop culture. Here are just a few. Others will be along shortly, to be sure.
There was the application in late August to register ANCHOR BABIES as one of the year’s meme trademarks, this one for use with clothing and dolls. This came right on the heels of one of the Republican party debates where the term was bandied about by the assembled masses of GOP presidential candidates. The USPTO has yet to take action on this application.
Then there was the registration last month of the famous Monkey Selfie image as a design mark for a variety of clothing and apparel. After an initial refusal on the basis that the image shown on a specimen t-shirt was merely ornamental, the mark registered based on the specimen of a shopping bag with the image printed on it. According to a Wikipedia entry, the registrant, Saban Capital Group, is a “private investment firm based in Los Angeles, California focused on media, entertainment, and communications investments.” One wonders whether Saban’s plan is to sit back and wait until someone starts selling Monkey Selfie images on t-shirts and then use the registration to swoop in and sue for infringement or sell a trademark license. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, the L.A.-based applicant to register TRANSJENNER as a trademark for use with clothing was rejected last month by the USPTO, for “false connection with person identified in the mark.” Meaning: The applicant hasn’t shown that the mark is endorsed by the former Olympian now known as Caitlyn Jenner. The applicant hasn’t made any response to that office action, and one isn’t due for several more months now.
Cecil the Lion
Also in August, Exclusive Adventures, Inc. applied to register CECIL THE LION for “Providing information, news, and commentary via the internet and social media in the field of wildlife conservation,” claiming use based on a specimen filing of a Facebook profile page.
Cecil was of course the lion shot by the dentist from Minneapolis that had such wide coverage and animal activist outrage over the summer.
Katy Perry’s attempt to register a Left Shark design after the awkward costumed creature stormed the Internet after its Super Bowl performance. The USPTO didn’t bite. The examining attorney found that the design “identifies only a particular character; it does not function as a service mark to identify and distinguish applicant’s services from those of others and to indicate the source of applicant’s services.” The examining attorney also questioned whether Perry’s design with the trademark application looked enough like the costumed creature from the halftime show.
Perry isn’t the only one who has attempted a branding move around the awkward costumed killer of the deep. At least two others have filed to register LEFT SHARK in association with a variety of consumer goods. (See Ser Nos 86526826, 86530869)