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Archive for Monday, November 7, 2011

Occupy protests inspire T-shirts, trademark bids

November 7, 2011

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— The revolution will be trademarked and put on T-shirts if an increasing number of entrepreneurs succeed in their attempts to profit from the Occupy demonstrations.

A few T-shirts began to appear several days after the first protest began on Sept. 17 with a march through the streets of lower Manhattan.

Now, T-shirts, coffee mugs and other merchandise emblazoned with Occupy locations and slogans are being offered online and amid the camp sites that have sprung up in cities across the country. A number of merchandise vendors, clothing designers and others are making plans to market a wide-variety of goods for a wide-variety of reasons even as some protesters decry the business plans as directly counter to the demonstrations’ goals.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has received a spate of applications from enterprising merchandisers, lawyer and others seeking to win exclusive commercial rights to such phrases as “We are the 99 percent,” ‘’Occupy” and “Occupy DC 2012.”

Organizers of the protest centered in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park went so far as to file for a trademark of “Occupy Wall Street” after several other applications connected to the demonstrations were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Wylie Stecklow, a lawyer representing the protesters, said the Oct. 24 filing was done to prevent profiteering from a movement many say is a protest of corporate greed.

“I would like to ensure that this isn’t co-opted for commercial purposes,” Stecklow said. “The trademark can be used for noncommercial purposes.”

Stecklow’s application was one of three filed with the U.S. PTO seeking to trademark either “Occupy Wall Street” or “Occupy Wall St.”

Vince Ferraro, a small businessman based in Arizona, applied to trademark “Occupy Wall Street” a few hours after Stecklow. Ferraro declined to discuss his plans if he wins the trademark.

“If I prevail,” he said, “I believe there are opportunities in commerce not directly related to the movement.”

Both Stecklow and Ferraro were beat to the trademark office by a Long Island couple who filed for “Occupy Wall St.” on Oct. 16. Robert and Diane Maresca paid $975 for the application, which said they intended to put the phrase on a wide-variety of products.

They couldn’t be reached for comment. But on Thursday, the couple withdrew their application, leaving Stecklow’s clients and Ferraro as the only two competing to own “Occupy Wall Street.”

USPTO lawyer Cynthia Lynch said that when the trademark office is confronted with similar applications, it gives priority to the first application received. However, she said the trademark office also takes into consideration whether the phrase was in wide use before the first application was filed.

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