Trademarks Stemming from Trayvon Martin Shooting - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Trademarks Stemming from Trayvon Martin Shooting

Trademarks Stemming from Trayvon Martin Shooting

The Trayvon Martin killing has spurred significant, world-wide controversy and rage.  As expected to be the case with anything that receives such astounding publicity, people are trying to profit off it.  Similar to the absurd T-shirts created in response to the “Twilight” hysteria, “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob,”  many merchandisers are creating various objects bearing phrases containing Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman’s names.

Martin’s mother has applied for trademarks on the phrases, “I am Trayvon” and “Justice for Trayvon.”  Shortly thereafter, a San Francisco business man, Lawrence Sekara, applied for a trademark on the phrase, “I believe you Zimmerman.”  Sekara’s trademark application states his intent to use the trademark on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other merchandise.  Martin’s mother claims she has no intention to profit off the trademark, saying she has filed the trademark so that others will not be able to capitalize on her son’s death by creating merchandise.

Although it is unfortunate that many are able to capitalize off of this controversial killing, Martin’s mother’s trademark application contradicts trademark policy- namely consumer protection and quality investment.  Trademark is defined in terms of its source-identifying use.  If Mrs. Martin has openly stated that she does not intend to use the trademark, and is seeking protection to prevent others from using the “mark” (if the use of his name can even be a mark), should the PTO refuse giving her trademark protection?

Kaitlin Keenan