By: Ashley Czechowski
Donald Trump has trademarked “Success by Trump” cologne, the “Donald J. Trump Signature Collection” for luggage and shoe-shine kits, and he even held one for “Trump Steaks” until 2014. And John Oliver, well-known comedian is trying to trademark “Drumpf.”
Oliver claims “Drumf” is Donald Trump’s ancestral family name and he has created the donaldjdrumpf.com website where he sells the “Make Donald Drumpf Again” hats, which are on backorder. It also offers a Chrome browser extension to replace all instances of the word “Trump” with “Drumpf” in a news feed.
Oliver filed a trademark application February 26, 2016 for “Drumpf,” and given the processing time of trademarks at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it may take up to four to five months before a preliminary decision is issued. The trademark application was filed by Howard Shire, a partner at Kenyon & Kenyon in New York.
It should be noted that if Trump seeks to object to trademark registration, he may have to acknowledge that it’s his ancestral family name and argue that it creates confusion for the public or harms his businesses.
The first hurdle for Oliver in obtaining the trademark is to show that the word “Drumpf” isn’t just a surname, but is connected to something in commerce. Oliver incorporated Drumpf Industries LLC in Delaware to file the application, and provided notice that there is an intent to use the brand name.
While it is the only trademark application for “Drumpf,” there are over 200 live applications or registered trademarks for the word “Trump” in them, including “Trumpocalypse” and “Trump Against the World.”
The Trump name, all by itself and often with a heraldic design, is owned by the candidate and real estate developer for everything needed to stock a high priced hotel — limousine services, greeting cards, wood floor tiles, toothbrush holders, jewelry, toy cars, teas, vodka, computer games, wastepaper baskets, candles, chairs, lamps, dress shirts and spring water.
Trump is able to register the his surname because he would argue that it has acquired distinctiveness or that people associate the name with his brand of goods or products.
Thus, Oliver wants to promote the word “Drumpf” because he believes the word “Trump” has developed a connotation of rich or successful in the minds of many Americans, and has become the “cornerstone of his brand.”
“If only there were a way to uncouple that magical word from the man he really is,” Oliver said on his HBO show. “Drumpf is much less magical.”
Trademark law is based on the concept of identifying the origin of a product so customers aren’t confused as to where it came from. There is some debate as to when the Drumpf name became Trump — the U.K.’s Daily Mail dated it to Donald Trump’s “tax-dodging migrant grandpa,” but others have reported it was as long ago as the 17th century.
You can trademark your own name, if it’s linked to a good or service — Trump’s daughter Ivanka and wife Melania have registered trademarks for swimwear and cosmetics, respectively. His ex-wife, Ivana, owns a trademark for an online retail store.
You can also trademark someone else’s name, as long as you have their permission. Whether Trump would acknowledge the Drumpf connection to object to the application is debatable.
Trump could argue that consumers would be confused or, even more critically, that it lessens the value of his brand and argue that it is diluting the strenght of his brand.
A key point in Oliver’s defense is the fact that he’s a known comedian. A politician can’t object to parodies or satire on their campaigns. It’s no different for trademarks — it’s a protected form of speech, much like song parodies or taking images of Barbie in a blender to make political statements.
Other people have “Trump” related trademarks too, including a California company’s “Ring Trump Tones,” the Trump Mediaeval typeface owned by Allied Corp., and the Veggie Trumps card game owned by a British man.
Ludwig Schokolade GmbH, a German company owns the trademark Trumpf for candy, chewing gum and chocolate and nougat spreads. It notes that the English translation of the word is Trump.