Coming Soon To Stores . . . Palin™: Palin Trademarks Herself

Sarah Palin has made a name for herself as a reality television star and grizzley Mom. Now she is trademarking that name as is her daughter Bristol Palin.

Bristol Palin has a one-line resume consisting of coming in second in Dancing with the Stars. However, if you want to use that name, you will have to check with her lawyers.

It gets even dicier when you start to publish how The Palins Went to the Super Bowl. In advertising you cannot use the term Super Bowl now that the NFL has claimed it as a trademark. You must say “The Alaskan Woman With The Reality Show To Go To Big Football Game.” “Cheeseheads” and “Steelers towels” have also been trademarked, according to this report The NFL even tried to trademark the phrase “The Big Game” to snare people who try to make any reference to the championship game. The Saints have trademarked “Who Dat?”

Businesses have used trademark laws to slam competitors. North Face sued over the parody company, South Butt. We have seen Apple sue over the mere use of an Apple symbol.

I have repeatedly objected to our run-away trademark and copyright laws. Congress is complicit in this ridiculous trend of people and companies claiming the most basic words and symbols as their propriety interests. The result is stifling of public disclosure and creativity. Simply saying that this does not restrict everyday conversations is not enough –as shown by the litigation over Susan G. Komen For the Cure. It restricts a wide array of speech in the marketplace. However, Congress has done nothing to stop this abuse. It is ridiculous to allow terms like Super Bowl to be claimed as private property but U.S. laws are allowing the privatization of general terminology and a host of lawyers are threatening people over the use of the terms in commerce.

The true absurdity of our current laws is shown by the abusive litigation of Susan G. Komen For the Cure — an organization fighting breast cancer. Komen has sued public interest groups who dare to advertise that they are seeking money or support “for the cure,” ranging from “Bark for the Cure” to “Kayaks for the Cure.” While claiming to want to fight breast cancer in endless ads played on the radio and television, the organization is crushing smaller groups trying to raise money for a cure to breast cancer. The organization has reportedly spent over $1 million that could have gone to breast cancer research to sue other public interest organizations. It is a disgraceful “scorched earth” campaign by a group that has become a fundraising machine.

Actually when will someone in Congress step forward to stop this madness?

Jonathan Turley

Source on Palin story: ABC

48 thoughts on “Coming Soon To Stores . . . Palin™: Palin Trademarks Herself

  1. “Actually when will someone in Congress step forward to stop this madness?”

    According to Citizens United, the answer is “When someone wealthy or a corporation pays them to.”

    The idiocy of our current copyright and trademark systems is only matched by the ridiculously inefficient and malingering patent system. If we as a country are to remain competitive globally? These systems – all of which are ripe for abuse and wasting the time of courts better spent on more meritorious litigation – must be brought from the 19th Century and into the 21st Century. Frivolous and abusive litigation such as the ridiculous trademark cases of the Komen charity and the patent trolling of SCO need to be stopped at a systemic level.

  2. Palin trademark application refused — for now

    Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s bid to trademark her name and that of her daughter, Bristol, ran into trouble at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because the application forms were unsigned, government records show.

    The office also said Palin’s application failed to show that her name had been used in commerce and could also be rejected on those grounds.

  3. how can you copy right “for the cure”? And why would you, if your motive was to fight cancer?

    I wonder how much of the money raised actually goes to cancer research or support services for cancer patients?

  4. Any trademark can still be used by anyone to identify the branded product. I can still say “Super Bowl” to talk about the Super Bowl, or anything authorized by the NFL to associate with the Super Bowl, without fear of infringement suits. Likewise, even if “Palin” is trademarked (and there are many reasons the registration could fail), we can still talk about Sarah or Bristol all we want; we just can’t slap their name on a TV show (I presume that’s the field of commerce she’s claiming). Even making Palin-brand beer is still fair game since she’s never produced beverages in commerce.

    Professor, I respect that you’re an expert on torts and constitutional

  5. Any trademark can still be used by anyone to identify the branded product. I can still say “Super Bowl” to talk about the Super Bowl, or anything authorized by the NFL to associate with the Super Bowl, without fear of infringement suits. Likewise, even if “Palin” is trademarked (and there are many reasons the registration could fail), we can still talk about Sarah or Bristol all we want; we just can’t slap their name on a TV show (I presume that’s the field of commerce she’s claiming). Even making Palin-brand beer is still fair game since she’s never produced beverages in commerce.

  6. “When someone wealthy or a corporation pays them to.”

    Hear Hear!

    That said, I can no longer call myself an ‘American’. The behaviors and beliefs that that word used to connote do not, apparently, exist here anymore. This Country has been sold as if a slave to those whose dissolute and profligate cravings are back seat driving this entire Nation.

    My only other alternative is to trade mark the word ‘American’ and sue everyone that so smears the good name….

    Looks like we have finally become the shadow of that World that we sought to leave behind in 1776. After all, according to Wikipedia, the USA is ‘The United States of America (also referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America) is a Federal Constitutional Republic comprising fifty states and a federal district.’ (and all this time I thought I lived in a Representative Democracy!)…power stolen by the clever use of words…or maybe,

    so I wonder what our next flag will look like? Bet it’s got a giant pic of Sarah Palin(c) and maybe she’ll be nekkid!!!!!

  7. One of the good things about a copyright is that one could still bring suit simply to harass; no more unflattering SNL skits if every time one was done a suit alleging ‘dilution’ of the brand were filed. It would probably be most useful against less wealthy and high profile business and people like the people that have “Sara Palin” (Is An Idiot) websites and the folks that made the above cartoon. It’s not that Sara Palin ™ could win them all or even one of them, it could be used simply to chill speech. Specially if you had a lot of campaign money to pursue it.

  8. Woosty=^..^: “…so I wonder what our next flag will look like? Bet it’s got a giant pic of Sarah Palin(c) and maybe she’ll be nekkid!!!!!”

    To have that image put into my mind so early is akin to mental abuse :-) It buuuurns!

    Please reassure me that there’s no wishful thinking going on there :-)

  9. “Please reassure me that there’s no wishful thinking going on there :-)”

    Lottakatz…..it’s fear…^00^

  10. Don’t look over your shoulder, Sarah. Michele Bachmann is gaining on you. She speaks authentic North Country gibberish too. And she can out-stupid you 2 to 1. More stupid = more votes. And may God continue to bless the United States of America, ya betcha by golly.

  11. eniobob

    That’s an interesting article. Ms. Palin could have attended both functions depending on time constraints. Either she dropped one because ticket sales were evidently poor, or they dropped her because of percieved or actual security concerns.

    If the latter, this is an unfortunate turn of events. We don’t need tea bagger tactics from the left any more than we need them from the right, though one might say this is hate rhetoric come home to roost.

  12. I am thinking that Sarah Palin should trademark the phrase, “Palin, the Village Idiot”, or “I can see Russia from my porch”, or “I’ll get back to ya”! I agree that allowing trademark protection for common words and phrases is abusive, but I don’t expect any change until Buddha’s situation arises and the Koch Brothers want to pay someone to change it.

  13. JT is right to put this nonsense out there. The patent and copyright rules and regulations are strangling both free speech and free commerce in this country. They are of course supported by those who prattle about the alleged benefits of a “free market,” but show the lie in that by their support of such restraints of trade and speech.

    The most frightening aspect of this is the attempts to patent things such as DNA and natural chemicals. Perhaps they will find a way to patent water, let’s say?

  14. From the Harvard Cyber law site – A magazine was using a trademark name for readers to vote on a 900 number that charged money and the magazine received a portion of that money which they gave to charity.

    [Some courts have recognized a somewhat different, but closely-related, fair-use defense, called nominative use. Nominative use occurs when use of a term is necessary for purposes of identifying another producer’s product, not the user’s own product. For example, in a recent case, the newspaper USA Today ran a telephone poll, asking its readers to vote for their favorite member of the music group New Kids on the Block. The New Kids on the Block sued USA Today for trademark infringement. The court held that the use of the trademark “New Kids on the Block” was a privileged nominative use because: (1) the group was not readily identifiable without using the mark; (2) USA Today used only so much of the mark as reasonably necessary to identify it; and (3) there was no suggestion of endorsement or sponsorship by the group. The basic idea is that use of a trademark is sometimes necessary to identify and talk about another party’s products and services. When the above conditions are met, such a use will be privileged. New Kids on the Block v. News America Publishing, Inc., 971 F.2d 302 (9th Cir. 1992).

    Finally, certain parodies of trademarks may be permissible if they are not too directly tied to commercial use. The basic idea here is that artistic and editorial parodies of trademarks serve a valuable critical function, and that this critical function is entitled to some degree of First Amendment protection. The courts have adopted different ways of incorporating such First Amendment interests into the analysis. For example, some courts have applied the general “likelihood of confusion” analysis, using the First Amendment as a factor in the analysis. Other courts have expressly balanced First Amendment considerations against the degree of likely confusion. Still other courts have held that the First Amendment effectively trumps trademark law, under certain circumstances. In general, however, the courts appear to be more sympathetic to the extent that parodies are less commercial, and less sympathetic to the extent that parodies involve commercial use of the mark.]

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/metaschool/fisher/domain/tm.htm

    It sounds as though if you don’t try to make money, like using Sarah Palin TM in a political ad asking for contributions you might be OK?

    This might cut down on political ads that ask for money, at least. And almost anything about Sarah Palin is ripe for parody. And the patent office has returned the application for more information at this point. Maybe they will hold off till 2013?

    Of course, if she gets the trademark, any group using her name for fund raising, as in eniobob’s post, will have to give her a slice of the action.

  15. Woosty,
    I love Eddie Izzard. He is the most refreshing and intelligent comedian around today. He skewers so much in this clip. By the way he is also a great actor. Check out the cancelled TV series “The Riches,” which was incredible, but too insightful to remain on the air.

  16. Mike I loved ‘The Riches’….I was so surprised when it was cancelled for ‘lack of viewership’ which I just find ridiculously hard to believe. I’d love to see one of the cable channels pick it up and continue the storyline….and save us from the drecht that is considered worthy…

  17. I assume that Tina Fey would be the appropriate one to trademark the phrase I can see Russia…, because it was her, not Ms. Palin who said it.

  18. Woosty,
    I guess great minds have similar amusements. I don’t know how to do emoticons, so imagine a smiley face.

  19. Is she doing this to try to squelch criticism down the road using trademark law? Or is she mad about unauthorized merchandise? Anyone have a sense of her motivation for this?

    I definitely agree with the need for IP law reform.

  20. Ugh, sorry about the double-post above. I gotta stop trying to use my BlackBerry to type replies.

    For the record, the incomplete sentence in the first post (I had reconsidered stating it in a public post and deleted it before making what I thought was my only post, but might as well say now that it’s out anyway) was a recommendation for Professor Turley to seek advice from his colleagues when wandering into more specific fields of law. Intellectual property is usually fair when considered in context, but unintuitive, and from the outside can seem as ridiculous as the rules of, say, medical malpractice liability can look to those who don’t know the law at all. (I notice at least two posts following referring to patents and/or copyright, which are separate fields from trademark. Trademark is much easier to get than either but also has much weaker terms of enforcement.)

  21. Put aside your spare change now, folks, so you can buy yourself a copy of Bristol Palin’s “memoir” this summer!

    Maybe we can come up with a good title for the “as-yet-untitled” book???

    ;)

    Bristol Palin Memoir Set To Hit Shelves This Summer
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/07/bristol-palin-memoir-untitled_n_819850.html

    Excerpt:

    Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, will soon be able to add “author” to her resume with the release of an as-yet-untitled memoir set to hit bookshelves this summer.

    As noted by Political Wire, an Amazon listing for an “Untitled Bristol Palin Memoir” — in hardcover no less — has been created, announcing that the 304-page book will be available for a little over $17.

  22. Should I take out a patent and trademark for the totality of existence?

    If I were able to do that, i would next put my patent and trademark forever after in the public domain.

    Why is not privatization of the commons a minimum of a thousand lifetime sentence felony?

    Is the governmentization of the commons any lesser an offense?

  23. Elaine M.

    If they both make it to the White House, the Lincoln Bedroom may be in play again.

    I’ve been trying to recall the term given Bill and Hillary because of their seeming willingness to use things like the L B to raise money. It was something that made them sound really sleazy. Ms. Malkin used Arkansas White Trash, but that wasn’t the term I’m trying to remember. Help?

    Anyway, a 304 page book!!! Any idea how long that took to write? And a memoir – how old is Bristol by now?

  24. You really haven’t experienced copyright lunacy until you’ve spent some time around physicians, who take Olympian pride in naming bodily functions, anatomical parts & pathologies after themselves. From Einthovan’s Triangle to Schmorl’s Nodes, from Colles Fracture to Babinski’s Sign, some of these wackos are off the chart sensitive. And when they die, their heirs take even greater umbrage at the slightest sense of infringement.

    Good ol’ Henry Heimlick went into semi-permanent vapor-lock when his choking maneuver was downgraded to “marginal” and changed to abdominal thrust.”

    And I won’t bore you further by slamming the lab coat lunatic who had the gold-plated, unmitigated gall to name the internal female breast supports after himself. (Cooper’s Ligaments)

    Just my little corner of the Twilight Zone.

  25. So no one can name their child Sarah or Bristol Palin in honor of these two, or even as a chosen or family name unrelated to these two horrid examples of humanity for about a hundred years, even members of their own family like maybe a Sarah granddaughter when Track marries? I’ll vote for that. The names would vanish from living memory in about 30 to 40 years.

    But what happens to the already born Sarah Palins, if they become personalities or authors or bloggers or want to open a Ye Olde Sarah Palin Shoppe they can’t use their own names?

    Plus are all the kids born in the last two years who were named in honor of Sarah Palin now illegal?

    Of course this is really pointless as Mz Moose Chili and her WTF (that’s Win the Future, so go wash your brain out.) spawn have so many widely recognized nick names that the copyright really isn’t going to stop other people from profiting from Palin family infamy.

  26. mahtso
    1, February 8, 2011 at 10:32 am
    Teen pregnancy a hilarious subject? Wow.

    ——————————

    Teen pregnancy leading to a gig on “Dancing with the Stars”, a Trademark name, and a 304 page book (memoir) – yes – hilarious!

    Doing WHATEVER to make money – even more hilarious.

  27. would this only effect the US market? i ask because in the UK bristol(s) are slang for large female breasts.

    if this is the case then whenever someone talks about big boobs she gets credit

  28. (I notice at least two posts following referring to patents and/or copyright, which are separate fields from trademark. Trademark is much easier to get than either but also has much weaker terms of enforcement.)

    Shire Nomad,
    You caught me conflating copyright/patent with trademark. Good catch. I really do know the difference, but wrote the comment not thinking about it and so was out of context. Please be charitable and call it a senior moment.

  29. “(I notice at least two posts following referring to patents and/or copyright, which are separate fields from trademark. Trademark is much easier to get than either but also has much weaker terms of enforcement.)”

    I do not agree that it is easier to get a copyright than a trademark.

    As I type these words I am gaining copyright protection in what I write. To obtain a trademark (or a service mark), one must either register with the U.S. or actually use the mark in commerce. (There may also still be some state-based trademark registration systems as well.)

    If you register without actual use, there is a relatively short time in which you must make actual use to preserve any rights (and I think you must demonstrate that you have a plan to make such a use). As I understand it, trade/service mark registration has substantial substantive advantages over merely using the mark in commerce. Registering a copyright also has advantages, but these are limited to enforcing your rights (i.e., procedural advantages only).

    In my opinion the Palins are smart to register their marks. And contrary to what ShireNomad wrote, if they get their marks registered they might be able to stop you or I from marketing Palin brand beer under a brand dilution/famous mark theory.

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