Just a few weeks ago, the Women’s March descended on nearly 700 locationsaround the globe with almost 5 million participants. It is estimated to be the biggest protest demonstration in American history. The primary march took place in Washington, DC, where more people showed up than anyone planned for. Even with the huge crowd, there were no reports of arrests, disruptions, or violence. In fact, many marveled that, though conditions were tight, cold, and uncomfortable, everyone was mostly nice and polite to each other.
Everyone except one (reported) lady. Enter the hilarious story recounted in New York Magazine by Rembert Browne:
As a woman with a Trump scarf on climbed into the backseat of a black Suburban — her driver standing by her side, eagerly waiting for her to sit down so he could close the door — she kept lunging out of the vehicle to give her commentary on the scene around her. She was clearly disgusted by the marchers surrounding her car. At one point, the woman in the Suburban said to a passerby:
“If you people had jobs, you wouldn’t be out here doing this mess.”
As this happened, another woman walked by and, without pausing to look at the Chevrolet Suburbanite, said:
“Bitch, it’s Saturday.”
“Bitch, it’s Saturday.” These three, crass-to-some words made many people chuckle, myself and the audience of Late Night with Seth Meyers included.
Regardless of political leanings, it seems somewhat ridiculous to think that working people wouldn’t be out on a Saturday (or any other day) marching if they so choose. Since when did unemployment become a requirement for protest participation?
At any rate, the phrase quickly became popular on Twitter and elsewhere:
It doesn’t even matter what day of the week it is as long as you keep “Bitch, it’s Saturday” in your heart.— Drea Isasi (@andreaki) January 24, 2017
Of course, Bitch, It’s Saturday t-shirts popped up almost immediately:
And then some enterprising souls pulled out the big guns… Four days after the Women’s March, a company in California filed a federal trademark application for BITCH, IT’S SATURDAY.
BITCH, IT’S SATURDAY trademark application info from the USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System database.
It seems that the Trump administration and the events surrounding its recent transition to power have sparked a number of trademark filings. For example, there are 12 pending trademark applications for ALTERNATIVE FACTS:
There are also more than 400 (!) trademark filings related to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN:
This actually happens a lot – after words/phrases go viral or becomes popular in the news or online, some people rush to file trademark applications for them. This is mostly legal and acceptable. There is no rule that says you have be the first person to create the words or put the phrase together to get a trademark. As a result, people file these kinds of trademark applications early and often — usually to take advantage of the built-in platform for merch and/or services they want to sell.
If a person has either used or intends to use a word or phrase in a way to distinguish their products from others in the marketplace, and stakes their trademark claim before anyone else, there are only a few reasons the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) can say no.
The “no” response typically happens in one of two ways when talking about viral or popular phrases:
(1) A trademark application cannot falsely suggest a connection with the subject of the application. For example, after the death of Trayvon Martin, someone unconnected/unrelated to the Martin family filed a trademark application for I AM NOT TRAYVON MARTIN. The USPTO refused to approve the application because “[a]lthough neither Trayvon Martin nor his estate is connected with the goods provided by applicant under the applied-for mark, Trayvon Martin is so famous that consumers would presume a connection.”
(2) A trademark application cannot be related only to informational matter. This comes up often with respect to social movements. It happened in 2011-2012 when someone attempted to trademark OCCUPY WALL STREET. The USPTO wouldn’t register the trademark because OCCUPY WALL STREET was seen as “a common, familiar phrase” that identified the movement. The USPTO noted that widespread use kept the phrase from being trademarkable.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months with these movement and politics related trademark applications. I imagine we will see many, many more of them, because most of American society seems to be obsessed with both the new administration’s every move and the responses to them. The merch that comes out of it all will be glorious, though if history is any indicator, it will be hard to keep up with it all.