The oddities of trademark law

Offensive words and phrases can be trademarked, and some people are trying to do this to keep such jargon out of broader circulation:

A spokesman for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said the office does not comment on trademark applications. Applications for trademarks flagged under a “scandalousness provision” can still be denied, the spokesman said.

Bordenave said he has filed many trademarks for phrases and logos that might prove profitable — radio frequencies, for example, and the phrase “New Orleans Tricentennial.” (The city will celebrate its 300th birthday next year.)

His idea: Build a brand around the n-word by including it discreetly — in T-shirt collar tags or fine print on water bottles, for example — on products emblazoned with larger, positive messages like “UNITY.” He said consumers would learn that, by buying such products, they were keeping the epithet out of more visible circulation.

This plan strikes me as ill-advised, and overly optimistic on the entrepreneurial side:

Maynard — of Snowflake Enterprises, named for a common insult of “someone with thin skin,” he said — planned to co-opt the swastika by including it on baby products. Such “social satire,” he said, could change its meaning and restrict its usage among hate groups.

“One of the hopes is that people look at the swastika flag in 10 years and think: baby wipes,” he said.

Or is there another agenda, hidden in its openness?  Here is the full story, via M.


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