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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