Intellectual Property Attorney


He is riding high in the polls and was front and center in the first Republican Presidential Debate. Some consider him an arrogant blowhard, while others believe he is the “straight talker” that the country desperately needs. Perhaps no presidential candidate elicits such an extreme response to his or her very name. You may love him or hate him, but there is little doubt that you know him.

“TRUMP” is an extremely well-known brand in the United States, long associated with luxury real estate and business ventures, but expanded over the years to encompass a wide array of goods and services. As reported by The Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Donald Trump has taken affirmative steps to protect and expand the “TRUMP” brand by filing more than three hundred trademark applications, many of which incorporate his name. Some of our favorites include “DONALD J. TRUMP, THE FRAGRANCE” for “perfume and cologne,” “THE DONALD” for a vodka, cranberry and champagne cocktail, “TRUMP STEAKS” for “Meat, namely, beef, veal, lamb, and pork” and “THE TRUMP FOLLIES” for “entertainment in the nature of live visual and audio performances.”

While many of these applications were not successful, they evidence Mr. Trump’s willingness to take business risks. In the U.S., trademark applications may be filed on an “intent-to-use” basis provided that the Applicant has a good faith intention to use the trademark in connection with the goods and services identified in the application. While the Applicant will ultimately need to show use of the trademark in commerce in order to obtain a registration and maintain protection, an Applicant may reserve a trademark for a number of years by filing such an intent-to-use application.

Regarding Mr. Trump’s proclivity to make such filings, The Wall Street Journal quoted attorney Josh Gerben as stating: “The legal strategy is solid. File as many trademarks as you can, for as many products and services as you can possibly try to put in the marketplace, and see what works.” (noting that this also creates a legal roadblock for anyone who wants to sell a product or service using his name).

Under U.S. law, “famous” trademarks – those with special public recognition and renown – enjoy a wider zone of protection. Third parties who seek to use the same trademark are subjected to greater scrutiny. In determining whether trademark infringement has occurred, the goods or services of the alleged infringer need not be as similar as in the case of marks that are not famous. This assists the owner of a famous brand in protecting and expanding the brand.

While it may be argued whether “TRUMP” has achieved such extensive public recognition and renown as to be considered a famous trademark, it is clear that Mr. Trump has built an extensive trademark portfolio across a wide spectrum of goods and services and hence has staked a claim to the exclusive right to use the brand. It remains to be seen whether he can make a legitimate run to become the next Commander-in-Chief, but the public recognition of his personal brand is no doubt one of his greatest assets as he pursues the presidency.

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