Over the last week or so, there has been a developing story over the filing of trademark applications in the U.S. for slogans relating to the Occupy Wall Street movement, including “We are the 99 percent,” ”Occupy” and the name of the movement itself, “Occupy Wall Street”. The idea of people or businesses monetizing the name and slogans of the movement by selling t-shirts does not sit well with occupiers, so apparently they have filed their own trademark application in an attempt to stop others from making money off of their movement. More specifically, the unincorporated association called “Occupy Wall Street AKA Friends of Liberty Park GA” has filed the trademark application for OCCUPY WALL STREET, claiming “use in commerce” for the following goods and services:
– Periodicals and newsletters
– bags, including but not limited to backpacks, gym bags, tote bags, luggage and overnight bags
clothing, namely t-shirts, sweatshirts, headwear, and jackets for men, women and children.
– Entertainment services, namely, providing a web site featuring photographic, audio, video and prose presentations featuring educational and entertaining materials relating to Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement Generally.
While the trademark battles for OCCUPY WALL STREET and the movement’s various slogans in themselves are ironic, the applicant, Occupy Wall Street AKA Friends of Liberty Park GA, claiming “use in commerce” (i.e. they have already used the goods and services in the ordinary course trade) for the above goods and services seems to add to the irony, given that the movement itself is seemingly anti-commercial in nature, protesting against a the “corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse […]” However, before we all draw the hypocrisy daggers, “use in commerce” under trademark law does not necessarily mean that the applicant must be a greedy profit-making corporation. For example, the American Red Cross, a charitable organization of course, has several registered trademarks in the U.S. Heck, even Greenpeace and PETA own registered U.S. trademarks.
Applying to register a trademark is about protecting one’s brand and the sweat equity that has been put into it, whether you’re an evil sweatshop-using multinational or a movement (or rather, an organization representing a movement) that stands for changing an economic and political system that they see as broken. Oh, and for my entrepreneurial Canadian readers: while someone has filed to register OCCUPY WALL STREET in Canada, you will be happy to know that there is currently no Canadian trademark filings or registrations for OCCUPY BAY STREET or OCCUPY CANADA. Who wants to make some t-shirts?