While trying to sidestep the recent flood tide of Taylor Swift-mania, I discovered an odd fact: Tay, as the Swifties like to call her, owns about 200 trademarks relating to her work.
Some are obvious: Her name is a certifiable brand, and she has trademarked her signature, along with some album and song titles, which may not be covered by copyright law. But that’s not all. She has also trademarked the phrase “Taymoji” as well as the names of her three cats: Meredith, Olivia, and Benjamin.
Because — why not? There is ample precedent for what sound like frivolous filings with the US Patent and Trademark Office. The New England Patriots have notably trademarked such workplace banalities as “No Days Off” and “Do Your Job.” The Red Sox, predictably, have protected phrases such as “Green Monster” and “Red Sox Nation.”
Earlier this year, Major League Baseball sought trademark protection for the name “Boston,” which Suffolk University law professor Rebecca Curtin called a “serious overreach. MLB quickly backed off the idea.
According to the Gerben Intellectual Property website, the Boston Celtics have a pending trademark application for the phrase, “C Us Rise.” Maybe they should acquire rights to the line “there’s no success like failure. And failure’s no success at all” — that is, if Bob Dylan is in a sharing mood.
The Celtics’ current nemesis, Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, hasn’t yet filed to protect his nickname “Playoff Jimmy.” Butler does have several pending applications relating to his “Big Face Coffee” brand, which he introduced during the 2019-2020 NBA COVID-19 “bubble” season. My favorite wannabe Butler coffee trademark: “May cause involuntary happiness.”
Trademark law exists for the legitimate protection of trade names like, say, Velcro, which makes a proprietary fastening system. Gore-Tex and Band-Aid are other famous examples. “Law & Order” has protected its signature, two-note duh-duh that repeats several times during each show.
I remember when the Kleenex PR people used to send fastidious little letters reminding journalists to append the trademark bug [™] after every mention of the renowned nose wipe. Maybe they still do. I will find out soon enough.
Once you learn that Paris Hilton has trademarked the phrase “That’s hot!” you realize the floodgates are open. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, for instance, should immediately trademark the phrase, “But I AM smiling!” or his recent, bizarre exclamation at a New Hampshire diner: “You guys have ice cream and everything!”
Former president Donald Trump might do well to trademark the phrase “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” but I’m afraid it’s not original to him. As might be expected, the Trump Organization has filed for many trademarks, including Trump Card, for use inside his hotels and casinos, and for H2(EAU), a super clever play on words (“eau” means water in French), which is the name of the pool bar at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas.
I could get into the trademark game. “I’ve been wrong before” is certainly a favorite phrase. “Thank you for reading” is still available. Maybe I will try that one.
Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.