The 15 Most Ridiculous Trademark Attempts Ever
It turns out the trademark side of the US Patent and Trademark Office is just as fun. The New England Patriots tried to trademark “19-0″, a reference to a spotless season. Too bad they lost the Super Bowl two weeks later. And even though it’s not uncommon for public figures to own their names, Sarah Palin was denied because she forgot to sign her application.
Snooki lost the rights to her nickname to a cartoon cat.
Who: Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
What she wanted to trademark: Her name, “Snooki”
You’d think the Jersey Shore Star would have no trouble getting her infamous nickname trademarked. But when she tried last year, the USPTO rejected her claim.
They were worried consumers might get her confused with Snooky, the cat star of a children’s book, which already owns the trademark.
The Patriots are denied the trademark rights to “19-0″ just in time for a crushing Super Bowl defeat.
Who: The New England Patriots
What they wanted to trademark: “19-0″
The team’s owner applied to trademark “19-0″, a reference to the perfect season, in January 2008—weeks before they lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
Then, in a hilarious turn of events, the always-snarky New York Post responded by filing an application for “18-1.”
Better luck next time, guys.
Walmart tried to claim the happy face—what would Forrest Gump say?
What it wanted to trademark: The yellow smiley face design
The smiley face has been around since the 70s, but that didn’t stop Walmart from trying to trademark it in 2006.
The chain even tried to sue artist Charles Smith for parodying the symbol. The courts, however, ruled that the smiley face is public domain.
Paris Hilton won a huge lawsuit over Hallmark for infringing on her trademarked catchphrase: “That’s Hot!”
Who: Paris Hilton
What she wanted to trademark: “That’s hot”
Say what you will about the hotel heiress, just don’t try to slap her catchphrase on your product.
In 2007, she sued Hallmark for using the expression, and her likeness, on one of its cards — and she won.
The USPTO denied Sarah Palin’s request to trademark her name because she forgot to sign her name.
Who: Sarah Palin
What she wanted to trademark: Her name, “Sarah Palin”
The former VP candidate has made headlines for taking liberties with the English language. But perhaps her biggest flop of all occurred when she tried to trademark her name.
Palin had an attorney draw up the application, but it required her signature for approval. She must have been too busy being the Shakespeare of Twitter to remember to sign, because the USPTO turned down her request.
Syracuse is trying to trademark “orange” and offending every other orange-colored school.
Who: Syracuse University
What it wants to trademark: “Orange”
Orange is crucial to the ‘Cuse spirit—it’s both a school color and the nickname for its sports teams. So, in 2004 and 2006, they applied to trademark the word.
The request is still being considered, much to the dismay of schools like Tennessee and Florida. According to the USPTO, many have even filed formal oppositions. No word on whether or not House Speaker John Boehner will follow suit.
Twitter lost the word “tweet” to a third-party developer.
What it wanted to trademark: “Tweet”
The micro-blogging service may be worth billions, but it still can’t claim ownership over the word “tweet”.
The trademarks office rejected Twitter’s application because of an earlier claim by a third-party developer. Twittad, a Twitter-based advertising service, trademarked the phrase “Let Your Ad Meet Tweets” in 2008.
Boise State trademarked its blue football field. Other schools responded by dyeing their turfs equally ridiculous colors.
Who: Boise State University
What it wanted to trademark: Its blue turf
The university’s Bronco Stadium is known for its signature blue artificial turf.
So, in 2009, Boise State secured the trademark rights to its unusual field, affectionately known as the Smurf Turf.
However, the claim doesn’t prevent other non-green grounds. In 2010, Eastern Washington installed bright red turf and Central Arkansas recently announced plans for a purple and gray field.
Subway sent cease-and-desist letters to vendors before it actually owned the rights to “footlong”.
What it’s trying to trademark: “Footlong”
The sandwich chain has been trying to slap a trademark on its “footlong” sandwiches for years. Not only is Subway battling opposition from other big chains like Pizza Hut and KFC, it faces smaller restaurants too.
Subway’s lawyer reportedly sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Coney Island hot dog shop and an Iowa-based general store. The latter responded with a major lawsuit. Too bad Subway doesn’t actually own any rights to the term.
Harley tried to trademark the sound of its engine.
Who: Harley Davidson
What it wanted to trademark: The sound of a revving engine
The motorcycle makers are hardly the first company to try and own a sound. NBC trademarked its three-tone jingle and the lion’s roar belongs to MGM. Harley wasn’t quite as lucky as its predecessors, though.
Though they applied to trademark the sound of a revving engine, it fell through when other manufactures complained that their engines sounded exactly the same.
Harley officially dropped the request in 2000.
Apple and Amazon are at war over the former’s ownership of the term “App Store”.
What it wanted to trademark: “App Store”
Status: Approved—for now.
Even though the “App” in “App Store” is short for application, not Apple, the computer giant owns the rights to the phrase. That didn’t stop Amazon.com from launching its own version for Android phones last month.
Apple slammed Amazon with a lawsuit. Further complicating this linguistic mess is the suit Microsoft filed against Apple in January.
According to Microsoft, the phrase “App Store” has become a generic expression.
McDonald’s has had mixed legal luck when it comes ownership of the “Mc” prefix.
What it wanted to trademark: “Mc” prefix
In the past, the fast food chain has emerged victorious from courtroom battles against smaller stores like McCoffee, a San Francisco cafe, and MacJoy, a Philippine fast food restaurant.
But their luck seems have to reversed. In 2009, McDonald’s lost an eight-year battle with a Malaysian restaurant called McCurry. Federal courts ruled that no person would confuse the two.
Trump’s catchphrase application got “fired” from the USPTO
Who: Donald Trump
What he wanted to trademark: “You’re fired”
The real-estate-mogul-turned-reality-star-turned-presidential-hopeful sought to make even more money by trademarking “You’re fired!”
Reports say he planned to stick his signature catchphrase on clothing, games and casino services.
Unfortunately, officials thought “You’re Fired” sounded too much like “You’re Hired,” an educational board game.
Don’t feel too bad for Trump though—he just landed yet another TV deal.
In addition to your pictures and personal information, Facebook owns the word “face”.
What it wanted to trademark: “Face”
As if the social networking site needed any more ammo against competitors, it recently trademarked the word “face”.
But don’t worry, it only applies to telecommunication services, so companies like Northface are safe.
So far, Apple’s video chat app FaceTime is also safe, but we think it’d be fun to see Jobs and Zuckerberg duke it out in court.
Jason Gambert repeatedly tried to trademark SEO, but the internet fought back.
Who: Jason Gambert
What he tried to trademark: “SEO”
If you haven’t heard of Gambert, don’t worry. When he filed several applications to claim ownership of SEO as a marketing tool, beginning in 2007, no one else had either.
But when blogger Sarah Bird discovered the applications, she posted Gambert’s saga and invited readers to file notices of opposition. And it worked.
In March of 2010, the UPSTO threw out his requests.
- Article by Alana Horowitz, April 8, 2011