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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 8:54am

    I have not filed for a trademark, but don't you have to specify the industries for which your trademark applies?

    What are they putting in there, war profiteering?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:11am

    Re:

    Yes, you do. You also have to actually be putting products in those categories on the market.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Ruben, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:12am

    Also having trouble seeing Disney's angle.

    In my eyes, this would be akin to Disney trying to trademark NASA. It's a gov't program, therefore all assets belong to the public.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:13am

    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)?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:15am

    "And the government isn't going out and selling.."

    What else is propaganda but selling a story or myth?

    Not that I'm implying anything.

    Maybe they want to make sure they get a cut of the movie rights, comics, game rights, a cut of the profit from history books. If it looks like profiteering perhaps it is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:55am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:56am

    Re: Also having trouble seeing Disney's angle.

    A team of seals that... do stuff.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    [TR], Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re:

    I suspect the amount of weapons at the Pentagon's disposal lets them sidestep such petty requirements.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, who is going to turn down the Navy's request when they can sick the dogs, er Seals, on you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    kenichi tanaka (profile), Jun 4th, 2014 @ 10:01am

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    zip, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 10:03am

    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.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Rich, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 10:17am

    Re: Also having trouble seeing Disney's angle.

    Except that I believe there is already a law protecting the name "NASA." I think it's the only government agency with such protection. It is why there are porn sites mirroring all the government websites (e.g., whitehouse .com instead of .gov), except for nasa.gov.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 4th, 2014 @ 10:33am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re:

    Legitimate intellectual property use would be a "man bites dog" story here on Techdirt.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 11:31am

    In what way does the military benefit from trademarking things like 'SEAL Team Six'?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    eil, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 1:31pm

    games

    maybe they want to boost recruitment through a game.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 1:44pm

    Precedent
    The case of Pentagon vs Disney

    Oh look, im being mentiomed in a negatibe but truthfull light, "trademark" them mutherfuckers-mothurfukers

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 1:50pm

    Re:

    Can copies of trademark registrations be requested by the public?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 3:34pm

    can they even do this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    tanj, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 6:01pm

    Re:

    They block Disney from trying to trademark it first.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:09pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2014 @ 9:27pm

    Now all Seals will have to pay the government or get bashed over the head with a club.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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