The Trademarking Of Trayvon Martin: A Sad Statement Of Our Times

from the this-is-not-the-way-things-should-work dept

As a bunch of folks have been sending in, it appears that Trayvon Martin’s mother has applied for two trademarks related to Trayvon: “Justice for Trayvon” and “I Am Trayvon.” The Trayvon Martin story, of course, has captured the the nation’s interest in a big way (even if it took some time), and is a truly tragic story. There are all sorts of important discussions to be had in response to what happened, and I never thought that intellectual property would ever even enter the conversation, but it’s a sad statement of our times that anytime something “happens”, people feel the need to rush out and get their government granted monopolies. Last month, it was the excitement around Linsanity, and this month it’s the tragedy around Trayvon.

It really does reflect poorly on the state of intellectual property law today that this is what people feel compelled to do.

That said, I still don’t understand why she’s applying for these marks, or even if the marks are valid. A lawyer for the family makes it clear that she’s not looking to make money from the marks, which raises the rather simple question of how they are being “used in commerce” for the sake of a trademark. Separately, you don’t need to register for a trademark to have a trademark — so if the point is just to stop others from profiting off the name, there are ways to do that. But, frankly, why should trademark enter into this discussion at all?

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Comments on “The Trademarking Of Trayvon Martin: A Sad Statement Of Our Times”

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kenichi tanaka says:


Trayvon’s family is definitely going to try to make money off this. I don’t believe for one minute that she isn’t going to try to make money off her dead son’s memory and it’s an insult to the memory or her son.

The only reason you apply for a trademark is to make money or to become a copyright or trademark troll. This is so sad that she would do this.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I wouldn’t think so because trademark is used to prevent confusion in the market. So, Tide is a trademark on clothes washing products while Tide can be used as the name of a restaurant as there’s no confusion between the two.

(Unless you’re the International Olympics Committee, of course.)

Though you’re right, there are the controversy junkies out there like the two you name along with the same breed in politics, Newt Gingrich for example.

Though I’m still not sure that trademarking their son’s name will avoid any of that.

(Adds the manditory “I could be wrong” qualifier.)

I could be wrong, of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, they can be used defensively so long as you have a bona fide intent to use the mark(s) in commerce. Here, the two applications are directed to media concerning this matter, perhaps an attempt to try and keep others from selling audio/visual works exploiting this tragic matter.

Unfortunately, at least one individual not related to the family has already files a trademark application associated with “hoodies”. As to the use the two applications serve no defensive purpose, unfortunately.

cjohnson says:

How is the motive obtuse?

After the actions of the Koman Foundation regarding their trademarks and given the social norms of starting non-profit foundations in the wake of a tragedy, it seems entirely plausible that Trayvon’s mother would be doing something similar.

What seems strange to me the assumption that registering these trademarks would be due to some improper or crass motive like profit. Of course, someone did assume her teenage son was a criminal, so maybe I’m expecting too much.

The remaining issue here is the need for people to register trademarks like this. I don’t think that the need to do so is inherently a problem. The question revolves around how broad those trademarks should be applied. For instance, Koman has been very aggressive with regard to their “Race for the Cure” trademark. Should Koman be allowed to have domain over all non-profit fundraising activities that are couched in terms of a race? Should Koman be able to dominate a social issue like breast cancer research? Does the protection of their brands inhibit competition from organizations to cure breast cancer?

Similarly, did the trademarking of “Let’s Roll” after 9/11 have any detrimental effect on the public’s ability to participate in the wake of a public tragedy? After all, the Beamer Foundation licensed it to the FSU Football team. Compare to trademark issues by the FDNY and NYPD over their logos on memorabilia.

The questions we should be asking are what impact these trademarks have and how broad of an application should be allowed. Motive is irrelevant.

G Thompson (profile) says:

I can understand how the mother would do this, most likely under advisement from an attorney who should know better about the negative publicity it would receive in the short term, though trying to place a type of caveat on otehrs trying to cash in on a dead person, even if the trademarks might never succeed.

The problem in my opinion is two fold. Firstly that there is a perceived need to initiate this in the first place, which is a sad indication on the type of society we inhabit.

The second problem is the second trademark “I Am Trayvon”. This is a positive statement of fact. You are either Trayvon (Your last or first name) or you are not. As a close ended statement it should never even be considered as a trademark.

What happens when someone starts selling or wearing clothing, or otherwise, the same statement and their actual name is Trayvon. Be they in Florida or elsewhere in the USA.

Myself I’d try to register “Florida’s Self Defence laws are fucking idiotic and need to change” and absolutely commercialise it to get money to make the idjits who allowed this to happen by allowing such laws in first place to pay, but that’s just the opinion of a non US Citizen thinking America (and esp FloriDUH) have freaky weird laws that make no sense anyway

John Doe says:

Re: Re:

Just a side note, but I don’t believe the “Stand your ground” law should come into play here. The guy did not stand his ground, he went and stood in the way of Trayvon’s ground. So I don’t believe the law applies to this situation. It is only through twisted logic that they are trying to make it apply to justify not charging the shooter.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

> but I don’t believe the “Stand your ground” law should come into play here

Too bad. That’s why the police didn’t arrest Zimmerman. And you weren’t their. How do you know what happened?

Zimmerman went looking for trouble. The but the SYG law only says you must have the lawful right to be somewhere. That somewhere can be in front of someone else.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

An interesting comparison can be formed between the tragedies of George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin and Trevor Dooley/David James.

James was playing basketball with his daughter on a basketball court. Some kid rides up on a skateboard, asks if he can skate, James says yeah. Trevor Dooley comes out of his house and yells at the kid for skating, James says the kid can keep skating. Dooley comes out with a gun in his waist band. James goes for the gun, in front of eyewitnesses. James is shot and killed in the altercation.

Dooley was arrested two days after the shooting. He is in fact claiming self defense under the Stand Your Ground law. And yet despite the similarities between these two shootings in Florida, there is one major difference; it’s been a month since Martin was shot, and Zimmerman is still a free man.

Oh yeah, there is one more difference I neglected to mention. The shooter is black and the victim was white.

Trenchman says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’m not really taking a side on this case because of one very important thing. Unlike the Trevor Dooley/David James case there aren’t any witnesses that saw what really happened between Zimmerman and Martin. A few that sorta saw something, but no one who saw all of what happened, or even enough to really give a clear idea of what happened. So there is in fact three major differences between the cases. Also, I’m kinda tired of people playing the race card as well, especially since Zimmerman is Hispanic, not white. If you’re gonna be foolish and claim race, at least get the races right.

Also, don’t ever believe the news, they will skew the facts and omit things to purposefully affect your view. Like I said, I’m not sure what happened, I wasn’t there, and there isn’t enough evidence to show what happened. But, watching the news I was certain Zimmerman was guilty, but when I looked into the case on my own, I found just as much reason to believe he didn’t do anything wrong, or at least that it wasn’t racially motivated.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

How about the 911 transcript between Zimmerman and the dispatcher?

911 dispatcher: Are you following him? [2:24]

Zimmerman: Yeah. [2:25]

911 dispatcher: OK. We don?t need you to do that. [2:26]

If you listen to the call, you can hear the wind blowing into the phone. That’s pretty much confirmation that he left his vehicle to go looking for Trayvon.

Now, Zimmerman says “OK” in reply to the dispatcher. But at the end of the call…

911 dispatcher: OK, do you just want to meet with them at the mailboxes then? [3:42]

Zimmerman: Yeah, that?s fine. [3:43]

911 dispatcher: Alright, George, I?ll let them know you?ll meet them at ?

Zimmerman: Could you have them call me and I?ll tell them where I?m at? [3:49]

So if Zimmerman wasn’t following Trayvon, then why would he need the officers to call him so they could tell him where he’s at? The only reasonable answer is that he’s going to follow Trayvon so that he doesn’t get away. After all, as Zimmerman says earlier in the 911 call, “these assholes always get away”.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

First, I never said myself that Zimmerman was looking for trouble. You may have me confused with ChrisB.

Second, “looking for trouble” is a colloquial phrase. You know quite well what it is intended to mean.

Third, the 911 call also says how Zimmerman believes Martin had something in his waist band. This is called “phantom gun syndrome” – when someone with a gun sees other people as having guns when they do not.

Fourth, Zimmerman believed Martin was suspicious. This is also known as “trouble”. And Zimmerman went looking for him. Hence, looking for trouble. How else would you describe following someone who you believe may be dangerous when the dispatcher says you don’t need to?

Okay, that’s enough troll food for today…

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You have no evidence to support your allegation. Based on the phone call with Martin’s girlfriend, it’s reasonably possible that Martin saw a bigger man (in terms of weight) following him with a gun in his waist band and thought his life was in danger. Could not Martin have reasonably been Standing His Ground against Zimmerman? What if Zimmerman started the fight by shoving or otherwise trying to detain Martin, and then Martin got the upper hand?

Both of those are reasonable explanations for Zimmerman’s injuries, and while allowing for Zimmerman to still be the instigator of the conflict.

Note that in the case of Dooley and James, which I mention above, the eye witnesses are very careful to state that Dooley instigated the conflict by coming outside brandishing a gun in his waist band, even though James was shot when he went for the gun.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

This is why the SYG law is a huge controversial issue.

By the law and its statutes, you can stalk a kid who did nothing wrong, cause the escalation of the situation, and if you believe that your life is in danger, you can shoot someone.

What is truly tragic is that the 2005 law was not formulated with people in mind. It was formed by ALEC to sell more guns for the NRA.

And since the introduction of this law, justifiable homicides have exploded.

It’s unfortunate that this situation occurred. These laws are not needed. Zimmerman should have been arrested. The Sanford police should have properly investigated. The law should be repealed and this example of crony capitalism should be eliminated from our government.

It’s supposed to be “of/by/for the people” not “of/by/for the corporation”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The second problem is the second trademark “I Am Trayvon”. This is a positive statement of fact. You are either Trayvon (Your last or first name) or you are not. As a close ended statement it should never even be considered as a trademark.

I disagree. Trademarks are very different than copyrights, in that everyone can legally use a trademark in whatever way they want unless such a use causes confusion in the marketplace.

You cannot trademark something and control its use in every circumstance. Trademarking “I am Trayvon” connects that phrase (along with, probably, certain other design elements) with a specific use in a specific field. It would not prevent people, whether they are named Trayvon or not, from saying “I am Trayvon” unless such speech involves selling a product that can be mistaken as being produced from the trademark holder.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: wait a second

You don’t have much imagination for this stuff. All you see is “evil Mike” and that’s it.

Interestingly, Mike has often stated outright, and I’ve never seen a comment from him that contradicts it, that he isn’t against IP as such. He’s against the abuse of the concept of IP. So from where I sit, it looks like your hatred of all things Mike has, in fact, completely blinded you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: wait a second

Mike finds almost every application of IP to be an abuse. Remember, he was a big supporter of Lessig’s hairbrained 1st amendment objections to copyright. Mostly, he seems to be in the category of “you can have your IP rights, but you cannot use them”, proposing idea after idea that is basically set to limit or neuter the rights of others.

In this case, he is so wrapped up in the evils of IP that he cannot grasp the simple defensive “we don’t want his name used to sell cheap t-shirts or make commercial use of his image”. It’s amazing that Mike is so blinded by his hatred of IP that he cannot grasp that simple concept.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 wait a second

> finds almost every application of IP to be an abuse

Yes, because how interesting would this blog be if he pointed out all the times IP was used properly?

That’s like saying the police think every one is a criminal because all they do is arrest people. “Why don’t the police give citations when I obey the law!”

hfbs (profile) says:

Re: wait a second

You really think if people were going to try and sell merch and profit off a kids death, they’d get to the TM issue and say ‘oh well that’s that plan scuppered then!’

Bullshit – as always, people would come up with a way to work around things; in this case, trademark. Either by spelling his name Treyvon or by using ‘Trayvon Needs Justice’ or something like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m of a divided opinion on this.

On one hand, the family was never very rich to begin with, hence part of the race tensions in this case. Trayvon Martin in some ways fit the stereotype of a poor black kid living in a city who must therefore be a troubled kid always getting into trouble (I know he has no criminal record, but look at all the people who have been trying to slander his name and defend the shooter by bringing up his school discipline records). By applying for a trademark on their son?s name they?re going to play right into the hands of the people attacking their son, by painting themselves as money hungry parents, who therefore must not have raised their kid very well. The trademark could also hurt the grassroots enthusiasm among their own supporters, which is what they need to get justice for their son.

On the other hand, as I said before, the family was never rich to begin with. The expenses of their sons deaths, all the publicity events they have to attend (at far distances expensive to travel to, and time lost from work doing these events), as well as the expense of their lawyer and other people to try to force the police to arrest the shooter, they cost money the family doesn?t have. The family probably isn?t going to get enough in donations to pay for all that stuff, hence the trademark is something they need just to be able to afford to keep up their public fight for their son without going bankrupt in the process.

They?re screwed either way really, because they weren?t rich to begin with.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re:

In my opinion, the only reason the Trayvon Martin story took off the way it did is because the police let the shooter go and didn’t even bother performing an investigation. They didn’t even bother trying to identify the dead teenager in their custody; they merely slapped a John Doe tag on him and waited for the father to file a missing person’s report.

Had the police arrested George Zimmerman, and had he faced a trial for manslaughter like the investigating officer had wanted, the nation would not know who either of these people are.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

What Is Wrong With You People?

The rest of the world looks at the USA and … it?s like a nation that have come to believe in the reality of their own Hollywood movies. You have the highest rate of gun crime in the developed world, yet when anyone suggests trying to fix the root of the problem, you act like it?s a sacred right to be able to kill yourselves.

The rest of the world wouldn?t worry so much if you were only killing yourselves. But when guns are flowing so readily from the USA that they are threatening the stability of neighbouring countries (like the ?drug war? in Mexico), then we seriously have to worry what kind of responsible world citizen you really want to be.

cadidia says:

trayvin martin

iam 12 years oold and i was doing research trayvon matins case is indeed sad but i don’t think his mother is doing whatt you said shes doing, tell me if yhu had a son and he was shot wouldn’t you want support , this is a good piece but about the wrong subject. Trayvons martins case is very intriguing yet dicombobulated. george zimmmerman is probably trying to get out of this situtation .Yet we can not say this hasn’t happened before this i think is the saddest one of made me cry and consider it in your heart to look at Trayvon Martins case its a tragedy

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