Can You Trademark a Political Slogan?

Yes, you can trademark a political slogan provided that you use that slogan to promote or sell your products or services.

This information was provided by our founding attorney, Xavier Morales, Esq. 

For example, the Obama campaign registered a number of trademarks for the 2008 election, stating that they were for “Political campaign services, namely, fundraising in the field of politics.” This is a common practice, and the Trademark Office will register trademarks listed as such.

If you are attempting to trademark a political slogan that consists of a particular living individual's name, you will have to ensure you have that individual’s written consent. Political slogans are subject to the same requirements by the Trademark Office that would be applied to any other trademark.

If there is a political slogan that you are considering using as a trademark, contact us today for guidance from a licensed trademark attorney.

Navigating Trademark Applications for Political Slogans

When submitting trademark applications for political slogans, it's essential to conduct comprehensive trademark searches. This process helps identify any potential conflicts, such as a likelihood of confusion with existing trademarks, which is a common hurdle in securing federal trademark registration. Political slogans, given their nature, can sometimes blur the lines between political speech and commerce, especially when they are used to engage people in business or to promote ideas and political issues.

It's also important to think about how important it is for your campaign to trademark a slogan. After Donald Trump registered a trademark for his political slogan "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN", the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) received almost 300 applications for trademark registrations that were similar slogans, including those doing so in a derogatory way. So there can be a flip side to trademarking your political slogan.

Trademark Rights and Political Figures

Notably, political figures have navigated the complex landscape of trademark rights, often seeking to trademark phrases associated with their political campaigns. This practice underscores the importance of understanding the intersection between public figures, political speech, and trademark law. The criteria for trademarking phrases or slogans related to government or political issues are meticulously scrutinized to ensure they meet the legal standards for trademark protection.

There has been a recent notable case around trademarking and political figures. California attorney Steven Elster has been seeking to register a trademark for the phrase "Trump Too Small" to be used on clothing in reference to a joke made by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. during the 2016 campaign. Of course, Donald Trump has not consented to this phrase, making the USPTO reject the application. However, the case is currently being held in the Supreme Court after Elster argued that it was going against the First Amendment's freedom of speech to prevent him from doing this. It appears unlikely that the trademark will be registered based on oral arguments, however, it will be interesting to see how this turns out.

The Role of Commerce in Trademarking Political Slogans

A key consideration in trademarking a political slogan is its use in commerce. The primary function of a mark is to identify and distinguish the source of goods or services to consumers. Therefore, a political slogan must be used in a commercial context to qualify for trademark protection. This requirement emphasizes the role of business activities in the process, whether it’s promoting political ideas through merchandise or using a phrase to symbolize the services offered by an organization.

Types of Slogans and Their Eligibility for Trademark

Understanding the different types of slogans and their potential for trademark protection is crucial. Not all slogans are created equal, and their eligibility for trademark protection can vary based on their originality, distinctiveness, and connection to the goods or services they represent. The United States Patent and Trademark Office evaluates each slogan on a case-by-case basis, considering these factors to determine if they qualify for protection under trademark law.

In Summary

Trademarking a political slogan involves navigating a unique set of challenges, blending elements of political speech, public interest, and commercial use. With the guidance of an experienced trademark attorney, individuals, and organizations can effectively secure trademark rights for their political slogans, ensuring they are protected under federal law while respecting the nuances of political discourse and public figures’ rights.

The Trademark Process

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Xavier Morales, Esq.

About the Author

Xavier Morales, Esq.

Mr. Morales founded his trademark law practice in January 2007 with the goal of providing intellectual property expertise to entrepreneurs and businesses around the country. Since then, he has filed more than 6,000 trademarks with the USPTO. You can learn more about Xavier here.

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