Thousands of people have taken to the streets, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to demand justice and equal treatment for Black Americans after the murder of George Floyd. Throughout these protests, the slogan “Black Lives Matter” is often used by those condemning the treatment of Black Americans at the hands of police officers around the country. Is this phrase a trademark, and if it is, who owns it? Do trademark principles allow the Black Lives Matter Foundation, an entity associated with the movement, to have a trademark in phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” so that they can prevent other entities from commercially profiting from using it?
Let’s start by discussing some trademark principles.
(Not) Aboard the IP Train
I first heard about intellectual property (IP) law during my junior year of college. I had a friend in the school of engineering who planned to pursue a career in patent law. My friend explained to me that a patent is a way to protect someone’s invention. She also mentioned that patent law is a subset of a larger legal area called IP. When I asked how someone becomes a patent attorney, she said that you need a science degree. As an economics major, I was put-off by this statement. I thought that IP was not an option for me. I can gladly say that I was wrong. Before I explain why IP is an option for me, let me explain how I ended up at law school in the first place! Continue reading