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Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart
Volume 21, Issue 6

TRUMP: The Trademark

By Julie A. Greenberg

Donald Trump made a name for himself long before his famous escalator ride to announce his presidential candidacy. Trump Steaks, Trump University, Trump Tower, even Trump Vodka: all very lucrative, proprietary, registered, and heavily licensed trademarks. Donald J is something of a Trademark Phenom – some say much of his wealth has been amassed largely from his trademarks – earning substantial revenue licensing his name, alone.

Trump’s protection of his intellectual property rights continued into his political career. While Trump was urging the country to “Make America Great Again!” his lawyers were collecting US Trademark Registrations for this slogan (U.S. Reg. Nos. 4773272; 5921166; 5020556; and 5885602). When the COVID-19 pandemic forced his in-person rallies to go “tele”, he filed for exclusive rights for “TELERALLY” (U.S. Ser. No. 90-052356).

Trademark registrations confer limited government-granted monopolies to brand owners. Similarly, individuals have inherent rights that protect personal likeness; called the “Right of Publicity.” Balancing both these rights are the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the fair-use defense. Many people, even skilled lawyers and businesspeople, do not have a working knowledge of these proprietary rights and defenses. This is due to the overall complexity of intellectual property rights and the rights’ unusual foundation in public perception.

Former President Trump recently tested the boundaries of his trademark and image rights when he sent cease and desist letters to three powerful Republican organizations this month. Cease and desist letters are highly common means of trademark enforcement. His letters demanded the Republican organizations stop using the Trump name and likeness in their political fundraising appeals and merchandise and discontinue leveraging his name commercially to solicit financial support.

Political figures are typically hesitant to protect their intellectual property rights, as such enforcement could inadvertently harm their own supporters or create unwanted negative attention for both the politicians and their associate parties. Mr. Trump, having an extensive history of managing his rights, is not as shy about defending his name and image. As a result, courts will soon face tough questions during novel legal battles, including finding the line between “Trump: The Brand” and “Trump: The Republican President.” Whichever side of the aisle you find yourself on, the answers to these questions will inevitably shape how politicians, their brands, and their political parties protect their identity and leverage goodwill. We predict that the answer will be less about Trump and more about how we – as a unified society – choose to balance individual rights and the collective need to build from our past.

Introducing Melissa Chapman

We are pleased to welcome Melissa Chapman as a new member of the Fishman Stewart team. Melissa comes to us with experience as a law clerk at an IP law firm and as a contract specialist within the IP department of an original equipment manufacturer. She is finishing her coursework at Wayne State University Law School with plans to graduate in December of 2021 and to sit for the patent bar in the upcoming months. Upon graduation, Melissa plans to further her career in intellectual property law, focusing on patent prosecution.

Protect Your COVID-19 Innovations

Manufacturing innovations skyrocketed during 2020 as our nation’s greatest problem solvers worked to tackle the challenges of a global pandemic. While some acted quickly to protect their new inventions and brands, too many remain vulnerable.

Please join the Michigan Manufacturers Association, noted manufacturing innovators, and Douglas LaLone from Fishman Stewart on Thursday, April 8 at 10:30 a.m. for a free virtual discussion that will help increase the value of your company and protect your intellectual property. Learn from the experience of your manufacturing peers in this interactive panel discussion. Register for the webinar at the below link.

The subject is also the focal point of the latest White Paper from Douglas LaLone, titled “Innovation Protection Up in U.S. During COVID-19.” Learn about the pandemic’s impact on innovation, and how to protect your latest creations. Read the white paper by following the below link.