How Will Trump's Presidency Affect IP and Trademark Protection?

There are not enough emojis in the world to capture the full spectrum of emotions surrounding 2016's presidential election cycle in the United States. Even now, the country is still figuring out how to process the results. Whether you feel like your side won or lost the election, we can all agree that it was a wild ride.

With Trump in the infancy of his presidential term, many are wondering what impact (if any) his presidency will have on the trademark and intellectual property sector. For the most part, we will have to wait and see how everything shakes out over the next few months.

When it comes to the impact of the election and your trademarks, there are six things we recommend keeping an eye on.

President Trump, Trademark Protection, & IP

Donald Trump has more direct experience with the trademark process than probably any president in U.S. history. A fact not surprising when you think about it. In many ways, this is the first non-politician/business-person to occupy the White House.

All successful CEOs understand the importance of trademark protection. Here are a few indicators Trump knows his way around the trademark protection process:

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1. He Understands the Importance of Trademarks

During his time as a reality TV star, he attempted to trademark his then signature catchphrase, "You're Fired!"

As reported by Business Insider, Trump planned to place the phrase on clothing, games, and casino services. Trump's attempt was ultimately thwarted, as officials found the phrase too similar to "You're Hired" — an educational board game.

2. He Files Trademarks Early

At the end of the last election cycle, the slogan, "Make America great again," resonated with many of his supporters. Being the pro-active businessman he is, Trump trademarked the slogan early in the campaign process— U.S. Trademark Registration No. 4773272.

Two days before being sworn into office he also filed for “Keep America Great,” U.S. Trademark Serial No. 87305551. Can we expect a new batch of red hats to hit the market in 2020? Both marks were filed in seven classes.

The slogans enjoy protected use on:

  • Bumper stickers
  • Political pamphlets for his campaign
  • Clothing
  • Campaign buttons
  • Political websites
  • Political fundraising
  • Political blogs
  • Online social media services

3. He's Exceptionally Litigious

As reported by IP Watchdog, Trump’s legal team sent cease-and-desist letters to both Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) when they began saying, "Make America Great Again," in their own speeches while seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

Whether he will be able to hold onto "Make America Great" in all classes, is another story. The POTUS is currently duking it out with another applicant who may have prior claim to the phrase in certain classes.

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4. He Won a Trademark Battle In China (not easy)

The presidency isn't Trump's only recent victory. He has obtained China-specific rights to his name for the trademark class covering “commercial, residential, and hotel real estate construction” as well as “information services in commercial, residential, and hotel real estate construction."

This battle has been raging since 2009, when Dong Wei, a Liaoning-based man filed for the Trump name trademark just weeks before Trump himself filed for the mark. It's important to remember, unlike the U.S., China is NOT a "first to use" country. The Chinese government prioritizes those who are first to file.

5. Melania Trump is Also Engaged in the Trademark Process

Melania Trump recently filed suit in the New York Supreme Court, claiming that Mail Online published an article that damaged her personal brand, and thus harmed her "Melania" trademark. The article in question alleged that the First Lady worked as an escort during the 1990s.

She has also gone to battle to protect her image in her native Slovenia. Recently, an entire cottage industry of products hit the Slovenian market bearing her likeness and her name. To protect her interests, she trademarked her name in Slovenia as well.

6. Trump and a New USPTO Director

With the changing of presidents, often comes the changing of other important offices held. One of which, is the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The future of residing USPTO Director Michelle Lee is receiving much speculation.

Those who think she will be replaced, point out that Trump has thus been quick to replace everyone appointed during the Obama administration. According to the National Law Journal, should the position be up for grabs, Randall Rader, former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals, is said to be a strong contender.

What Does The Future Hold?

It seems unlikely that someone who has benefited so greatly from trademarks will adopt any policy that makes their own registration more costly or difficult. However, whether international registrations or other areas will feel the sting has yet to be seen.

Whether you are for or against a Trump presidency doesn't change the fact that politics will have less effect on the trademark space than technology. Technological advances, and a surging increase in trademark applications, means trademark portfolio holders must adopt agile filing processes, and a vigilant protection strategy, if they want to keep their marks safe.

With NameCheck™ you can get a risk score for your trademark candidate in less than 15 seconds. Using a sophisticated algorithm, the program generates a likelihood of confusion analysis based on the factors that matter most (i.e. word meanings, Internet domains, litigiousness of owners and so on). That should keep you agile and efficient when working on the ever increasing mountain of trademark data.

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by Nick Potts.