Can ‘Boston Strong’ Be Trademarked?

Who'd want to do a thing like that? Turns out the Patent Office has already received two applications.

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John Tlumacki / Boston Globe / Getty Images

Police officers draw their weapons after hearing a second explosion near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. See more photos from the scene here.

It didn’t take long for opportunists to find ways to make a buck off the Boston bombing. But now, more than a week after the attacks, many of those eager to capitalize on the tragedy have taken their products off shelves. However, there’s probably more to come: two separate Massachusetts-based applicants filed requests with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the phrase “Boston Strong” just two days after the attacks.

Both parties claim to have filed with good intentions, requesting to use the words for clothing and accessories.

One is an individual, Kerim Senkal. An Allston, Mass., delivery worker and father of two young boys, Senkal says he got the idea from his regular deliveries to an office that has screen-printing machines. He tells TIME that he will “give 100 percent of the profits to the One Fund,” a charity created by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Menino to help the families affected by the tragedy.

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The other applicant is a t-shirt company called Born Into It, Inc. The owner, Ryan Gormady, told the Huffington Post that he filed because he was concerned that someone outside the Boston area would try to grab the trademark instead.  “It’s more to indemnify and protect ourselves and our colleagues and partners,” says Gormady. The company reportedly states on its blog it will “donate 20 percent of revenue from all Boston-related merchandise sold April 15 through April 30 to The One Fund.”

But Josh Gerben, a Washington, D.C., trademark attorney, believes the applications are fairly pointless. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the words “Boston Strong” have become so ubiquitous that the Patent Office would most likely consider them to be in the public domain, and thus impossible to associate with any particular company or individual. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, the government wouldn’t grant anyone the exclusive rights to the phrase 9/11, Gerben explained to the Huffington Post.

Whether or not the applicants have a viable case, it will likely take the office several months for the requests to be examined and a decision to be made. “By that time, the window of opportunity may have already passed and they may no longer be interested in spending the money to pursue this,” Christopher M. Ott, an attorney with the law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, said in an interview with LAW360. According to that report, the trend of seeking trademarks on words in the news has become so rampant that it was surprising for there to be only two applications for “Boston Strong.”

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18 comments
mickboston
mickboston

@Trap12  lest we forget that both of these incidents were attacks on our own soil within our own country by duel israeli and american citizens. this is a coup that has been going on since kennedy assassination. no matter what happens we must stick to the laws of the constitution of the united states of america.. lest we forget what our founder's had taught us.

Trap12
Trap12

Boston Strong... lest we forget.  9/11... lest we forget.  Both represent the character and resolve of a nation, not just the cities of Boston and New York.

This terrorist event, as effective in execution, but like the US in Iraq, ineffective exit strategy, demonstrated to other terrorist groups the resolve of the American people to run down those who attack us.  It also demonstrated the numbing effect of such attacks.  And also demonstrated how to shut down a major city.

Simple... proud, and proud deserves a slogan for history sake.

BostonIrish
BostonIrish

Boston Strong we are, proudly.  The victims, their families, the first responders, the witnesses, the law enforcement officers who faced down terrorists throwing incendiary devices and shooting at them.  And, yes, those who stayed in their homes so the manhunt could go down with no further injuries. Those who disagree are cowards.

slant
slant

BOSTON is #1! Where are you from, California?? Bunch of Sallys.

RyanEvans
RyanEvans

paul revere was boston strong. I'm fairly certain you all hid in your homes, complied with illegal searches, then clapped for martial law.

you make knee-jerk reactionary decisions, like an animal.

that isn't strong.

mslman71
mslman71

A 19 year old made an entire city hide indoors for two days. "Boston Strong;" I don't think so. 


HenryCameron
HenryCameron

So what does that make us New Yorkers?

"New York Tough"?

*rolls eyes.

Profiteering off a tragedy should be a crime.

JackieNichols
JackieNichols

I love how both applicants tried to turn it around and say that they applied for a trademark for altruistic reasons instead of their own greed.  Classy!

thespacebrain
thespacebrain

it just seems weird that you could own a phrase that is simply the name of a major city with an adjective after it.  

And why all the focus on Boston anyway?  The attackers didn't attack all of Boston, only a few people within it.  And besides, the attack was against freedom, against America, wasn't it?

The attackers felt that they were defending their faith against the whole of the Western world, I think.

Shame on anyone for trying to profit from this horrible act of evil that has hurt so many people!


joestecco
joestecco

It's just a rip-off of Jersey Strong after the storms.  It's nothing original.  I would not doubt that Jersey wasn't the first either.

sferittuzer
sferittuzer

what a useful, meaningful phrase. which town isn't 'strong' after a terrorist attack? which town's residents stay indoors not coming out or I don't know, cry for 2 days whatever, whatever 'strong' means? 

mslman71
mslman71

... to be fair, a 26 and a 19 y.o. for two days, a 19 year old for one day, give or take. 

vegarover
vegarover

@joestecco Actually it's a rip off of Lance Armstrong's "Live Strong". Why would anyone want to associate with a cheat and a liar?

Albatrone
Albatrone

@mslman71 It was ordered, you idiot. It was to cooperate with police. By the way, I wouldn't judge anyone's strength being a cowardly internet troll. You should probably change your name to mslhead...it'd be a better fit.

mslman71
mslman71

@Albatrone @mslman71 lol. touched a nerve eh? So what's make them strong then? Getting on with life like every other people throughout the world and history who have no choice but to get on with things? Travel around a bit. If they're strong then that makes the people of a good part of the rest of the hardened steel.