What does Mr. Trump’s history of trademark litigation show?
Presidents have not traditionally been significant brand owners. Ford Motor Company did not come from Gerald. Vacuum cleaners were not made by Herbert. Taylor wines did not come from Zachary’s family. Obamacare is from Barack…but that’s different.
Mr. Trump has been a diligent trademark owner. Federal court records show that Donald J. Trump or some Trump company or organization has been involved in a half dozen federal trademark lawsuits over the past ten years. His Las Vegas companies filed a case against two labor unions which had circulated a flyer stating that Mr. Trump did not stay at one of his own resorts during an early campaign stop in Nevada, but rather stayed at a competitor’s property — a fact which he denies.
The lawsuit said Mr. Trump was “…the archetypical businessman – a deal maker without peer. Mr. Trump is a world famous individual, and his name is synonymous with fame, fortune and luxury.”
There was a case in 2008 that involved a dispute over registration of the domain name for “Trump Plaza Of The Palm Beaches”.
Looking at litigation within the Trademark Office, the Trump organization has been a bit more active. But the records do not reflect any activity which appears to be outside the norm of trademark action for the owner of so many marks.
The Trump organization owns a lot of marks, probably in excess of one hundred current, existing federal registrations to Donald Trump and/or his companies. Sifting through the ownership records might be like what Mr. Trump warned us about those tax returns: it’s complicated. This figure excludes the several marks owned by Melania, and the stable of “Ivanka Trump” registrations. It also excludes several political slogans.
Among trademark registrations, there is again no indication that Mr. Trump’s company has any unique protection strategy. But upon examining the many trademark registrations, there is no pattern which suggests a special view on what or how to register marks.
But unlike almost any other president in history, Donald Trump has first-hand familiarity with the concept of marks and brands.
As for trade legislation and trademarks? Even if Mr. Trump goes after NAFTA as he has promised, NAFTA certainly has not created any NAFTA-wide trademark rights. Trademark owners still must file separate applications to register marks here, in Canada, and Mexico. Even an evisceration of the NAFTA deal would not change much.
We’ve long been a part of at least two other major treaties on Trademark law: the Paris Convention and the Madrid Protocol. Paris has been around for over a century. Madrid has been part of our law since 2003. In practice, there is nothing in these treaties that should catch the administration’s attention.
Efforts by the courts, legislature or government agencies to lessen those protections will not find a receptive audience in the White House. The President may even argue that his success is built entirely on the fame of his marks. Will that matter?
Jess M. Collen
Collen IP Partner
Jess Collen’s expertise in the field of trademark law has long been recognized. He has been active in IP practice for over 30 years and highly involved in the profession, having acted in many capacities, including as a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the International Trademark Association. He is also a featured Forbes.com contributor, What’s Your Trademark?, which focuses on all aspects of intellectual property. Mr. Collen has represented clients in U.S. District Courts and federal Courts of Appeal across the United States in industries as diverse as watchmaking, consumer electronics, high fashion, fashion eyewear, food, entertainment, software, and other industrial and consumer fields. He was counsel in a copyright infringement case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.