USPTO rejects Boston Strong trademarks


The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has rejected four applications to register a popular phrase coined in the wake of the Boston marathon bombings as a trademark.

Previously WIPR reported that several applications had been registered for a trademark under the name ‘Boston Strong.’

The saying was emblazoned on T-shirts sold to raise money for The One Fund - a charity set-up to help those injured in the attacks.

It was also subsequently quoted on social networking sites and used by the Boston Red Sox baseball team, who auctioned off a signed ‘Boston Strong’ poster.

But on April 17, two days after the bombings, Boston t-shirt company Born Into It and Massachusetts based Kerim Senkal applied to register the mark for use on clothing and accessories.

This was followed days later by applications from Emil Vicale of Connecticut, John Schmidt from Florida and Allen Dowling, also of Massachusetts.

The Boston Beer Company also announced that it had applied to register the phrase for beverages as it plans to rename the marathon’s official beer.

However, in a ruling published on July 12, the USPTO rejected the applications on the grounds that they conveyed “informational social, political, religious and other similar messages.”

It ruled that it did not function as a trademark due to not indicating the source of the applicant’s goods and or services and would not identify and distinguish it from others.

Hailing it as the “right decision” William Hansen, partner at Lathrop & Gage LLP in New York, said: “This phrase [Boston Strong] became a battle cry for Boston and a cultural statement which is hard to capture as a trademark.

“Under our laws a trademark must have a source designating quality. The USPTO has come to the conclusion that, as the public associates the phrase with the city of Boston and its resilience and not a producer of products, that it should not be trademarked.”

Likening it to a similar flurry of trademark applications in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and for the Donald Trump catchphrase “You’re fired” from TV show The Apprentice, Hansen said it was commonplace for such applications to be made.

“Whenever there is a big event that captures the imagination people rush to commercialise it,” he said.

“The examiner [at the USPTO] would have done his homework here and taken everything into account but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was slightly offended by the nature of the applications. I think it [the USPTO] made the right decision.”

A spokesman for Born Into It, which also trades under the name Chowdaheadz, told WIPR the initial filing was made to stop another party filing and enforcing the mark against it.

He added: “Once we saw that it was being used for fundraising efforts and became a social phrase to support the victims we released a statement explaining that we are not looking to pursue the mark.

“Chowdaheadz has donated over $30,000 to the Boston One Fund and even more to 3rd party fundraising events and we appreciate anyone who has supported our city.”

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