STACY J GROSSMAN

I Called It - 3 US Trademark Applications for BREXIT


by Stacy J Grossman,

On June 23rd, voters in the UK indicated their support of an exit from the European Union.  This event has come to be known as "BREXIT" - a coined term referring to the possible British Exit.

The day after the referendum, I predicted that someone would apply to register BREXIT for t-shirts.

I was right.  On June 24th, an individual filed an intent-to-use application to register BREXIT for "clothing, including t-shirts and hats".  (Two companies got in on the action as well: Boston Beer Company filed an application to register BREXIT for "hard cider" and Quicksilver Scientific filed an application to register BREXIT for "dietary and nutritional supplements.")

I've previously written about trademark profiteering, so it wasn't hard to predict that someone would attempt to cash in on the popularity of the phrase BREXIT.  Unfortunately, though, the Trademark Office will not register slogans or informational messages as trademarks.  

A slogan printed on the front of a t-shirt is considered merely ornamental, and not a true indicator of source.  The Trademark Manual for Examining Procedure provides that “slogans or phrases used on items such as t-shirts and sweatshirts, jewelry, and ceramic plates have been refused registration as ornamentation that purchasers will perceive as conveying a message rather than indicating the source of the goods.”  TMEP §1202.03(f)(i).  

If the individual who applied to register BREXIT for clothing simply plans to print the word BREXIT on the front of t-shirts, his application will be refused as merely ornamental.  If he uses BREXIT on the label and hangtags, and creates a true BREXIT brand (possible, but unlikely), then the application may pass muster.  I suspect the applicant wasted $275, and that this application will wind up in a virtual pile of doomed clothing applications filed by trademark profiteers.