Can the Lanham Act Preclude Registration of “Trump” Trademarks Intended as Political Speech?
Article By Ann Potter Gleason
The National Law Review
October 30, 2020

With marks such as SHUT THE TRUMP UP!, OBAMA PAJAMA, and REAGAN WORLD, entrepreneurs indefatigably—and unsuccessfully—pursue trademarks that include the names of living presidents. But the quest to register trademarks including the name “Trump” appears to be particularly enticing even though experts warn such an application wastes a filing fee. As of October 21, 2020, a basic word search in the Trademark Office database revealed 206 applications including the word “Obama”, 82 including the word “Reagan”, 25 including “Biden”, but a whopping 862 applications including the word “Trump.” Will the Lanham Act’s “false suggestion” provision and its “particular living individual” bar (sections 2(a) and 2(c)) continue to stand between these applicants and successful registration? Or do these provisions trample on the First Amendment rights of applicants? And what if the proposed trademark makes a political statement?

Although businesses owned by our 45th president or his family members filed many of the 862 trademark applications themselves (and the number of those Trump family applications spiked when Donald Trump started running for president), most of the applicants seeking to register “Trump” trademarks are individuals or businesses hoping to associate their product or service with the President’s machismo. Another significant number seek to subtly or blatantly denigrate the President.

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