Make Your Mark, But Skip the Disparaging Trademark

Make Your Mark, But Skip the Disparaging Trademark

While the possibilities for a trademark (a word, phrase, symbol, design or combination that distinguishes a company or its goods) may seem endless, attorney Daniel Taylor warns against choosing a mark that is disparaging to an entire group of people.

On FindLaw’s Free Enterprise, he says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently upheld the denial of a trademark to blogger Pamela Geller, who wanted to register the phrase “Stop the Islamization of America” for her group with the same name and her similarly dubbed website, “Stop! Islamization of America.”

Taylor says the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reviews applications to ensure they comply with the Trademark Act. One of the reasons it can be denied, he says, is if it disparages or falsely suggests “a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols,” or brings them into contempt.

In Geller’s case, he said the Federal Circuit agreed [PDF] with previous findings that “the admonition in the mark to STOP sets a negative tone and signals that Islamization is undesirable and is something that must be brought to an end in America.”

While Geller can still use the slogan, she may not be able to bar others from doing so as well.

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