By Daniel Davidson
Catchphrases have become the new gold rush. Proof in point: when the “one percent” marched on Wall Street, everyone rushed to trademark “Occupy Wall Street.” When seal team 6 assassinated Osama Bin Laden, Disney rushed to pan up the trademark “Seal Team 6,” and if Disney is doing it, it is to make money. Recently settled, David Hester of the reality t.v. show Storage Wars and rapper Trey Songz went to the court to see who in fact owned the rights to the catchphrase “YUUUP.”
So what is a catchphrase? Dictionary.com defines the word as, “a phrase, as a slogan, that comes to be widely and repeatedly used, often with little of the original meaning remaining.” If you have a group of friends, I am sure a catchphrase has developed between you all. Now, why would a catchphrase be important to trademark? Can it be trademarked?
Catchphrases can be trademarked as long as it identifies and distinguishes the goods or services, offered by the owner of the catchphrase, from those of others, and if it indicates the source of the goods or services. Simply putting the catchphrase on a shirt would not fulfill this requirement though, and would most likely be refused registration due to being merely ornamental. In order to fulfill the requirements of a trademark or service mark, the catchphrase would need to be displayed on a tag, display associated with the goods or services, etc. Questions of proper uses of catchphrases as trademarks or services marks would be best answered by a trademark attorney.
Have catchphrases been trademarked before? Of course. Below are some catchphrases that you may recognize.
“Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” registered in 1995.
“That’s Hot” was registered by Paris Hilton in 2007.
“Thug Life” was registered by Amaru Entertainment, Inc. (Tupac) in 2011 but was filed for in 1996.
“LIFE IS LIKE… A BOX OF CHOCOLATES” was registered by Paramount Pictures in 2012.