Trademark System Bias


Welcome to a series about the threat and impact of questionable trademarks.
Scroll to the bottom for an ordered list of posts, or go to the Index.

TM System Bias, Part 05e: KEEP CALM & Consider Slogans

Trademarks referenced by this series are included only to illustrate how Trademark System Bias affects outcomes. See more. All opinions are my own. I'm not an attorney and you're not my client. When relevant, posts are sponsored or contain affiliate links. More Legal

Last updated on July 17th, 2020

In this post, you’ll learn how the novelty industry spawns so many questionable and even faulty trademark registrations.

The worst thing about all the faulty registrations is how many creatives think if they can just register an awesome slogan like LIFE IS GOOD (only different, so, you know, it’s like, not confusing to college kids), then BOOM! their million-dollar T-shirt empire is just around the corner.

Guess how many silly applications this will send to USPTO?

And it’s not as if it hasn’t been done successfully before. Just look at what happened after the Keep Calm and Carry On posters were discovered and went viral.

Serial No.TrademarkRegistration No.
86048573I CAN’T KEEP CALM I’M GETTING MARRIED4704673
87314687I CAN’T KEEP CALM I’M GOING TO BE5262807
86193612I CAN’T KEEP CALM I’M HAVING A BABY4531155
86893705I CAN’T KEEP CALM I’M THREE5040448
86553820I CAN’T KEEP CALM I’M TWO4831335
86381353I CAN’T KEEP CALM IT’S MY BIRTHDAY4746828
86366622I CAN’T KEEP SANTA’S COMING4708287
85346472KEEP CALM AND ACK NICE4207307
86068193KEEP CALM AND DRINK BEER4615044
86147887KEEP CALM AND GO GREEN4616480
85733161KEEP CALM AND HEAD UP NORTH4334580
85787465KEEP CALM AND LET ME DO YOUR MAKEUP4456426
85787983KEEP CALM AND LET ME FIX YOUR HAIR4413532
86626134KEEP CALM AND LET MIMI HANDLE IT4870662
86616473KEEP CALM AND LET NANA HANDLE IT4934349
86608447KEEP CALM AND LET PAPA HANDLE IT4870224
86580794KEEP CALM AND LOVE4921654
86068163KEEP CALM AND PLAY GOLF4717334
86548075KEEP CALM AND WORK OUT4827027
Table of 19 “KEEP CALM” slogan Trademark applications in the clothing class. All but one were registered. (Two were cancelled due to Section 8.) See Part 8a of this series for an Airtable of specimens for these and other marks that overcame ornamental refusals.

To be fair, an examiner refused KEEP CALM I’M ALMOST (SN 87582645) for its failure to function. So there’s that.

Novelty = New (Other Examples of Questionable Registrations)

Success in the novelty/print-on-demand industry is largely dependent on one’s ability to generate new expressions for different niches. Here are more examples of questionable registrations, excerpted from a list of over a hundred that were collected with the help of other creatives.

Each of the following expressions is or was a registered trademark for clothing (often, the registration is only for T-shirts, or T-shirts and hats). I say “was” because some may have had Section 8 cancellations (after tying up the expression via an Intent-to-Use application for five-eight years).

Geographical Gift Souveneirs

  • 86389859 SOMEONE IN BOSTON LOVES ME!! (6 variations of this are registered)

Hobbies and Entertainment

  • 86336299 BORN TO FISH FORCED TO WORK
  • 86337250 I FLEXED AND THE SLEEVES FELL OFF
  • 86352772 I PRACTICE YOGA TO RELIEVE STRESS
  • 86399662 RUN NOW WINE LATER
  • 86330794 WITH GREAT BEARD COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY (parody of “With great power comes great responsibility.” – Voltaire; others cite Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in Spiderman.)

Holiday Expressions

  • 87172074 I’M SO CUTE IT’S SCARY (infant/toddler Halloween shirt)
  • 87172065 LITTLE MISS THANKFUL
  • 87199470 SANTA PAWS (Dog lover’s Christmas)
  • 86885475 MY LITTLE VALENTINE
  • 86922282 IRISH I COULD DRINK (St. Patrick’s Day)
  • 87546512 WILL TRADE SISTER FOR EASTER EGGS

Humorous, Inspiring or Political Expressions

  • 78399375 DON’T TREAD ON ME (Gadsden flag)
  • 77698593 REAL MEN PRAY THE ROSARY
  • 86337314 REAL MEN CHANGE DIAPERS
  • 78518827 REAL MEN GO SLEEVELESS
  • 86331627 REAL MEN LOVE CATS
  • 86333943 REAL MEN MAKE TWINS
  • 86381346 THE HARDEST PART ABOUT A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE WILL BE PRETENDING I’M NOT EXCITED

Family Expressions

  • 86364667 THIS LADY IS GOING TO BE A GRANDMA
  • 87101976 MAMA SAUR (dinosaur derivative)
  • 87114437 PAPA SAUR (dinosaur derivative)
  • 87114449 PROUD DAD OF A FREAKING AWESOME DAUGHTER
  • 86964999 BRIDE TO BE
  • 86963995 BRIDE’S MAID
  • 87320305 DOES THIS SHIRT MAKE ME LOOK PREGNANT?

Gad.

Please understand, I’m not picking on the owners of these marks or the examiners who approved them. I’m not calling anyone a troll or bully or anything else. I’m not even saying all the marks are frivolous or faulty. They’re just… um, how you say? Suspiciously similar to novelty expressions.

And these are only the tip of the iceberg. The next post shows what happens when political expressions go viral.

This is Part 5e of a 12-part series about the threat and impact of questionable trademarks. The next post is Part 5f. Or see below for a complete list: