The 2016 presidential election cycle is in full swing. In the crowded 2016 race, there are 3 Democrats and 15 Republicans vying for the presidency. At Alt Legal, we had a hunch some candidates would be running well before it was publicly announced.
We’re not clairvoyant, but as developers of software to manage intellectual property, we are constantly reviewing and analyzing IP filings. IP filings like trademarks contain valuable data, such as obscure information about the filer’s intention. By comparing filing dates, office actions, and publicly disseminated information, trademarks can provide valuable insight into a political candidate’s plans.
See the marks here: Jeb!
While Jeb Bush formally announced his presidency on June 15, 2015, his company BHAG LLCactually filed his trademark application for “Jeb!” long before on January 16, 2015. Several months before he formally announced, his team was already laying the groundwork for his campaign. The USPTO issued a priority action requiring Jeb Bush’s written consent in order to use his name in a mark by October 13, 2015. As of today, November 9, the Jeb! mark is abandoned for failure to respond to that action.
Hillary Clinton has already filed for three trademarks to use in her campaign. On April 16, 2015, just four days after announcing her candidacy, Clinton filed to trademark her campaign slogan, “Hillary for America.” While the USPTO usually takes three months to review a trademark (because of the backlog), this application was reviewed by an examiner just ten days after her application was filed!
Other individuals are also attempting to use Clinton’s name in trademarks of their own. A man in Illinois has filed for the mark "Hilliary", adding an additional “i” to her name to create a pun. The “Hilliary” mark has caused a delay for the “Hillary for America” application because it was filed on April 11, five days before Clinton’s mark. This has resulted in the mark “Hillary for America” being suspended pending further review of the “Hilliary” mark. The owner of the “Hilliary” mark has until December 7, 2015 to provide Hillary Clinton’s written consent for the use of her name in the mark. If he fails to obtain this consent, which he will, his application will be abandoned and there will no longer be a bar to registration for “Hillary for America.”
In addition to “Hillary for America,” Hillary has two trademark applications for her H symbol, one in grayscale and the other in blue. The trademarked H replaces the horizontal line of the letter with an arrow pointing right. Both of the H symbol marks have been published for opposition.
Donald Trump trademarked his slogan “Make America Great Again.” This slogan was previously used by Ronald Reagan for the 1980 presidential election. Trump’s first application for this mark was filed in November 2012, assigned to the examiner in March 2013, and after several extensions requested by Trump, he filed a statement of use on May 27, 2015, which was approved on June 5. On June 16, 2015, Trump announced his candidacy, after perhaps hiding his intentions to run from as early as 2012. Finally on July 14, the mark was officially registered. The trademark is filed for use in connection with political action service committees and political fundraising. Trump has subsequently filed three more applications, on August 5 and 13, to expand use of the mark to a variety of merchandise. One has been assigned to an examiner, one was issued an office action on October 14, and the last was suspended due to the aforementioned pending applications.
Trump also filed for “Trump” to be used for campaign services and a variety of promotional goods such as T-shirts and bumper stickers on August 17, 2015. The USPTO issued a priority action on October 20, that Trump must reply to by April 2016. Trump must clarify the categories of goods and services that he will use with the mark. Also, someone filed for the mark “Trump it!” on August 15 and Trump’s mark is pending resolution of that application, which requires consent of Donald Trump.
See the marks here: Bernie 2016
Although Bernie Sanders has not yet filed for a trademark, he may be willing to let others use his name and likeness in their marks. A designer in Vermont filed for a mark on October 1, 2015 that has the words “Bernie 2016” below an outline of Sander’s hair and glasses. Although he has already sold the shirt in several states, his mark was only assigned to an examiner on October 13. While his site disclaims any affiliation with Sander’s campaign aside from donating a percentage of the profits, the designer recently told the Rutland Herald that he contacted the campaign and they “seemed OK with it.”
Carson filed for “Ben Carson for President 2016” as a stylized mark for use on a political website on July 17, 2015, after announcing his candidacy on May 3. Just like the other candidates, Carson received a priority action requiring him to consent to the use of his name in a trademark. The USPTO received his consent on September 23 and his application remains pending. Carson also filed an application for an unstylized version of this mark for the same class of services on September 30, shortly after the second Republican debate on September 16. He included an affidavit of consent with his second application, which has been assigned to an examiner.
Walker has applied for two marks, Scott Walker with a flag in the place of the E and Walker 16 with a flag in the place of the E. Both marks were filed on July 10, 2015 and Walker announced his candidacy on July 13. The marks are awaiting response to priority actions, however Walker dropped out of the presidential race on September 21 and will likely abandon the marks.
TO THE USPTO, WITH LOVE:
While the trademark application looks like a standard form with routine questions about the slogan or word mark’s usage, we find the application to be much more telling. In our case, it has given us insight into the political process, revealing trademarks as an early step in the campaigning process, and, in some cases, the clandestine nature of pre-election preparations. With trademarks so enlightening, how can we help but love IP law here at Alt Legal!
We’ll keep you posted with the presidential trademark updates! Meanwhile, check out the trademark applications we’ve been talking about for yourselves.