Donald Trump likely has no legal rights to a word he coined on Twitter
Is this another down payment on Donald Trump’s economic growth pledge?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has received more than a dozen filings for ‘covfefe’ less than a week after the President confusingly injected into popular discourse a word he invented in a midnight tweet. The filings, the first of which dates to the day Trump tweeted, run a wide gamut of products and services. People have asked the USPTO to recognize their trademarks for Covfefe coffeehouse and snack bar services, crop tops, sweatshirts and even lingerie.
One enterprising Mississippi resident even came up with a tag line —“COVFEFE Carry On Vigilantly Fighting Evil For Ever”— that he hopes to use for merchandise like bumper stickers and mugs.
Legal experts aren’t surprised by the flood of filings. After all, nobody quite knows what it’s supposed to mean. “It got so much attention because it’s a made-up term that lends itself perfectly” to almost anything,” says Mark Bartholomew, a law professor at the University of Buffalo. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has said that it’s something only the president and close associates know, while Trump challenged his Twitter followers to “enjoy” figuring out the word means. Others have speculated that a drowsy President accidentally sent out the tweet before he completed it.
Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ??? Enjoy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2017
Whatever Trump’s intent, the people whose trademark applications are eventually successful will have to rush to bring their product first to the market. “The question is who’s the first to sell a good involving covfefe,” says Bartholomew, a specialist in intellectual property law. He adds that anyone can put in an application with the USPTO, but “until they finally sell a product with that term, the rights don’t ripen. You can’t use [the filing] for anything.”
It’s also quite possible that there could be more than one commercial product named after covfefe out there soon, just like there’s a (non-related) Delta Air Lines and Delta Faucet. “The question is how closely related the products are,” says Bartholomew. “It’s okay to have covfefe perfume and coffee because they’re in such different categories.”
Despite the famously litigious President having seemingly coined the phrase, he likely won’t have any commercial rights to it, especially since his representatives don’t appear to have filed an application. “You don’t get trademark rights because of a tweet,” says Bartholomew. “They spring from being used in commerce and it’s sort of controversial. A President should stay away from using things in commerce.”
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