Pentagon Gets Busy Trademarking After Seeing Disney Try To Cash In On SEAL Team 6

from the taxpayer-money dept

Three years ago, we wrote about how Disney applied for a trademark on “SEAL Team 6” just two days after the Navy SEAL’s Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden. While public outcry resulted in Disney dropping the trademark application a few weeks later, the situation apparently woke up some trademark lawyers at the Pentagon to get busy trademarking.

We wrote about this situation a few months ago, in noting that the military has suddenly been looking to trademark just about everything, but a recent NY Times piece suggests that it was that run-in with Disney that really ramped things up.

The Marines registered only one trademark in 2003 and four in 2008. But as troops came home from Iraq and then Afghanistan, efforts began picking up. In 2010 and the first half of 2011, the Marines registered nine trademarks.

Then Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, Disney tried to trademark the name SEAL Team Six, and things ratcheted up from there. The Navy immediately fired back at Disney, filing its own trademark for the phrases “SEAL team” and “Navy SEALs,” terms that, the Navy said in its filing, imply membership in a Navy organization that “develops and executes military missions involving special operations strategy, doctrine and tactics.”

Of course there had been some earlier abuses, including this story we had back in 2008 concerning trademarks on military hardware. Still, it’s difficult to see how the government should be able to gain a trademark in the first place on things like the name of a military team or division. Trademarks are supposed to cover use in commerce. And the government isn’t going out and selling the “SEAL team.” You can make an argument that no one should be able to get such a trademark, but it’s unclear why the government should get it at all.

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Companies: disney

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Comments on “Pentagon Gets Busy Trademarking After Seeing Disney Try To Cash In On SEAL Team 6”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Is it necessary for Mike to write an article for every instance in which a patent or a copyright is not being abused? While I have actually seen such articles from Mike that do point out relevant instances when they’re not being abused, there’s not really a point in pointing out where those are working because you’d spend several life times writing about them. It’s when they’re being abused that it becomes something to point out.

Sadly, there are a lot of relevant instances in which patents and copyrights are being abused, so there’s a lot to point out.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So are all uses of IP simply “abuses” to you, Mike? Seriously. Are there any uses of copyrights or patents that you don’t think are abusive (I know you like trademark, so I’m not asking that)?

There’s an old saying in the news business, that you write stories about “man bites dog” not “dog bites man.”

There’s nothing interesting in “oh look, that patent makes sense.” The stories of interest are the abuses.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Companies should be prevented from applying for any copyright, trademark or patent that is in direct relation to government, such as military or government and I’m shocked that the Patent and Trademark Office hasn’t developed policies of its own that refuse to accept applications in this matter.

What’s next? Disney tries to trademark the seal of the U.S. President?

zip says:

military branding and supplus

“Trademarks are supposed to cover use in commerce. And the government isn’t going out and selling the “SEAL team.”

I was surprised when I visited a local sporting-goods store at how many “US Army” branded products were on the shelves. It seems like kind of a scam, since these are not things the army actually uses, and probably should not be putting its ‘seal of approval’ on otherwise.

Military surplus shops have long had the problem of cheap Chinese-made items that look virtually identical – including the labels – to actual US military surplus goods. Although it’s illegal to manufacture and sell fake commercial brands, it’s been perfectly legal to deceive consumers into thinking that these cheap counterfeit knockoffs are genuine military surplus.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It does not…but it does provide something for a government attorney to crow about when it comes time for an annual evaluation. Of course, virtually none of them have any substantive experience with state, federal and foreign trademark law, so the silliness of what they are doing is unappreciated/unrecognized.

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