Illinois Woman Files For Trademark On Phrase 'I Can't Breathe' Because This Is America Damn It
from the infringing-protest dept
You know, when you write for Techdirt, you see so many silly trademark stories that you become sort of numb to them. Even when it comes down to people, multiple people, attempting to trademark simple words and phrases because we've reached a point where we think anything can be owned with the proper government documents, you don't really react. But then you hear about a woman from your home-state thinking it's okay to trademark the phrase of a man who died at the hands of police hundreds of miles away, the phrase that was the last he was ever to utter, the phrase that has become a rallying cry for a protest designed to seriously take on the issue of police abuse, and you find that you still have those emotional nerve endings within you.
An Illinois woman is seeking to trademark the dying last words of the New York City man who gasped “I can’t breathe” while being arrested by NYPD cops for selling loose cigarettes. In a December 13 application, Catherine Crump petitioned the United States Patent and Trademark Office to register the phrase for use on hoodies and t-shirts for men, women, boys, girls, and infants.I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. The depravity here astounds me. First, even if the phrase coined by a deceased now-icon of a protest qualifies for trademark by the person who didn't utter it, the idea of it is so distasteful that I hope for that reason alone this application is denied. But the claims within the application are astounding.
The 57-year-old Crump, who lives in Waukegan, a city 40 miles north of Chicago, contends that she has been using “I can’t breathe” for commercial purposes since “at least as early” as August 18, one month after Eric Garner, 43, died following a confrontation with police on Staten Island.Keep specifically in mind the claim that Crump claims her use in the immediate aftermath of Garner's death has always been commercial in nature. Keep it in mind both because it serves beautifully that Crump is both a horrible person and likely a liar when she says the following.
In an interview, Crump said that she had “nothing to do with the Garner family,” and had not spoken to them about her trademark bid. While claiming that her purpose for marketing “I can’t breathe” garments was not to make money, she declined to disclose what other reason there was for her trademark filing (which cost $325).Riiight. Say whatever you like, you're milking the death of an unarmed black man from hundreds of miles away, and now attempting to lock up the ability to do so for yourself. I'd like to think that nobody else would think to do something like this, but I'd probably be wrong. Worst of all, any attempt to enforce this trademark, in the event that it was granted, would hinder the ability of the protesters to get their message across. That would bring the horror of this full circle: you locked up the dying words of a man whose death can't be protested effectively because of your doing so. Brilliant.