Jul 4, 2017

Donald Trump & 'Covfefe' Tweet: who owns the trade mark?

Donald Trump sparked a surge of trade mark applications for the word mark COVFEFE, after he wrote on Twitter in the early hours of the morning at the end of May.  The President tweeted "Despite the constant negative press covfefe".  The tweet remained for a number of hours until it was finally deleted the next day.

More than 100,000 people retweeted the message in the a few hours it remained on Twitter.  Hillary Clinton even responded to one of Donald Trump's tweets saying "People in covfefe houses shouldn't throw covfefe,".

Most people do not know what the word means and assume that he originally meant to write "press coverage,"  However,  Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the media that the term was used intentionally and that "The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant".

Since that date individuals and companies have been applying to register the mark COVFEFE in connection with different goods and services.   The US Patent and Trade Mark Office has received over 30 applications from different applicants.

In the UK an application has been filed covering "Ale; Ales; Beer; Beer and brewery products; Beer-based beverages, Beers, Beverages (Non-alcoholic -);Flavored beer; Flavored beers".

The mark has not yet been registered in any of the countries where it has been applied.  However, in the UK at least it has been accepted and published for opposition and if not opposed by the end of August, the mark will register.  The only real grounds for opposition appear to be that the use of the mark was applied for in bad faith.

The word is already associated with Donald Trump and the trade mark applications raise the question of whether or not it is right that someone can claim ownership of the word  in connection with their goods and services.

In the UK and US applicants must have a bona fide intent to use a mark on the goods and services applied for.  If the mark is not used it will be vulnerable to removal from the register.   Furthermore, the purpose of a trade mark is to identify the source of the applicant's goods rather than just to convey an informational message.  Therefore, if the trade marks are registered it will be difficult for the owner of a mark to enforce it against someone using such a widely used word.

It is not unusual for entrepreneurs to apply for trade marks for words and phrases used in the media.  In 2016, there were 15 applications for the mark "Nasty Woman," after Trump used the phrase to describe Hillary Clinton at a presidential debate.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0192 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.

in: News, Trade Marks

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