October 22, 2019

October 21, 2019

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Who Owns the Trademark to "Boston Strong"?

In the wake of the April 15 bombings during the Boston Marathon, the phrase “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry for the city’s gritty resolve in facing the aftermath of the attack. Proving once again that no cultural meme goes unexploited, the phrase also became a popular would-be trademark. Before a week had passed, no fewer than eight applications were filed in the US Patent and Trademark Office to register BOSTON STRONG as a trademark for goods ranging from t-shirts to jewelry to beer to coffee beans.

Some commentators expressed dismay that anyone might be allowed to claim exclusive rights in a slogan that came to prominence arose under such patriotically-charged circumstances. A seldom-exercised provision of the Trademark Act permits the PTO to refuse registration to marks that “may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with…institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.” Whether the phrase “Boston Strong” rises to the level of a “national symbol” remains to be seen.

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About this Author

John C. Blattner, Intellectual Property, Attorney, Dickinson Wright, Law Firm
Member

John practices brand creation and protection law, including trademark counseling, clearance, registration, maintenance, and enforcement both in the U.S. and overseas. His pre-legal career in publishing, marketing, and nonprofit development enables his to bring real-world business experience into his practice, which includes the fashion, financial services, cosmetics, sporting goods, automotive, technology, pharma, publishing, and other industries. He represents U.S. clients doing business in Europe, Latin America, China and the Pacific Rim, and elsewhere; as well...

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