Earlier this week a story broke that a Long Island couple filed for a trademark on the slogan “Occupy Wall Street” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The couple’s initiative, as one might expect, is prompted by business aspirations—they were planning to sell “Occupy Wall Street” T-shirts, bumper stickers, “hobo bags” and other merchandise. Push the obvious irony aside and the question of whether the phrase can actually be trademarked is worthy of inspection.
Although she wasn’t permitted to comment on the case, Cynthia Lynch, administrator for trademark procedure for the United States Patent and Trademark Office, talked to various media outlets to explain the trademark process.
The effort to trademark a phrase is by no means unique; words and designs are the most common marks administered by the agency. That being said, because the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has gone global, the ability to secure a trademark for the phrase will prove arduous—there are too many trademark applications within close proximity.
The couple’s intent to trademark “Occupy Wall Street” represents a wish to use a trademark for interstate commerce. Because of this, the couple must register a tangible item—such as T-Shirt– displaying the phrase with the trademark office. Furthermore, the couple must show a connection to the goods and services with the attached phrase—the couple must show a connection to the mark and believe that they own the phrase and the exclusive right to use it.
The United States Patent Office employs several trademark attorneys to examine applications in correlation with trademark statutes—laws that govern the registration of marks.