Couple seeks to trademark “Occupy Wall Street”
The Occupy Wall Street movement has been growing and gaining in momentum over the past couple months, and like any grassroots movement it has been undergoing some growing pains as people try to figure out exactly how it will work. As the movement gains members, it is inevitable that the movement will change. The one thing that will likely remain constant is the message itself. And inevitably, wherever there is a powerful message, someone will see the possibility of profit.
Robert and Diane Maresca, both residents of Long Island, have attempted to register a trademark for the “Occupy Wall Street” slogan. They want the exclusive right to use the label on T-shirts, handbags and drinking glasses, which they would presumably sell for a profit. Robert said that he realized the OWS slogan had the potential to become a “global brand” and that the move was inspired by his “practical business side”. He used the age old explanation that if he didn’t make this move, someone else would have. Indeed, apparently another attempt had already been filed to register “We are the 99%”. Robert did claim that his motives were to protect and enable the spread of the message rather than to control it.
Trademarks were originally intended to be attached to physical goods, and it’s not surprising that using them in regards to a political movement has unexpected consequences. The diffuse nature of a grassroots movement like OWS makes them particularly vulnerable to attempts like this. Of course, it’s questionable whether the registration will succeed, and even if it does it wouldn’t prevent the movement from using the slogan, merely prevent others from selling those particular goods with the slogan on it.