The “Boston Strong” motto has been denied a trademark by the USPTO on nine separate occasions. Samuel Adams Boston Beer Company was among those whose applications were denied. The company wanted to name its official Boston Marathon beer “‘Boston Strong’ to help boost the drink’s proceeds, all of which were donated last year to charities that support bombing victims and their families” (Rocheleau). The brewery said that, if it were to obtain the trademark, it would still “allow other members of the community to use the phrase ‘Boston Strong’ in their product marketing so long as all the profits from its sale are donated to charity” (Jaunted). However, the application was denied because the phrase appears in so many other contexts. The ruling said, “The use of the slogan is so widespread with respect to the marathon bombing as well as other uses, that its use has become ‘ubiquitous'” (Rocheleau). Meahuna Coffee, New England Tea & Coffee Co., Inc., an apparel company called Born Into It, Inc. and Cathedral Art Metal Co., Inc. have also applied for a trademark.
Emerson College students Nicholas Reynolds, Christopher Dobens, and Lane Brenner were credited with first coining the slogan on T-Shirts (Swan). They have donated all $1 million of their proceeds to the One Fund (Swan). Brenner said she has been disappointed to see others selling the same shirt for profit (Swan). If one company were to own the trademark of “Boston Strong,” it would see increased profits while other entities who currently use the mark would no longer obtain funds to donate to marathon charities. The original creators from Emerson never filed for trademark or copyright (Swan). Their sole intention was to donate their earnings to One Fund, so there was never a need for trademark.
Hunter defines “trademark” as a “word, name, symbol, device or any combination that is used in commerce to identify and distinguish goods and to indicate the source of the goods.” While “Boston Strong” could potentially fall under this category, it was ruled ubiquitous and cannot be applied to a specific good. The slogan, of course, is modeled after LIVESTRONG, a cancer awareness foundation created several years ago. There is a trademark for “LIVESTRONG,” but is owned by the LIVESTRONG Foundation. In this case, there are so many uses of the “Boston Strong” slogan that awarding a trademark to one entity would potentially deprive the rest of the users from raising more money to support the cause. Matt Rocheleau quoted the ruling, which said, “The applied-for mark merely conveys an informational social, political, religious, or similar kind of message; it does not function as a trademark or service mark to indicate the source of applicant’s goods and/or services and to identify and distinguish them from others” (Rocheleau). If anything, the Emerson students should own the mark or a charitable foundation created in honor of the victims of the bombing. While it is understandable why Samuel Adams would want to trademark their official marathon beer, the phrase should be left open as fair use so that multiple entities can use “Boston Strong” to continue to raise funds and support those affected by the events of last year’s race.
Rocheleau, Matt. “Feds Deny Attempts to Trademark ‘Boston Strong’.” Boston.com. Boston.com Staff, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <http://www.boston.com/business/news/2014/04/21/feds-deny-attempts-trademark-boston-strong/u1CCJkSm5Ntxn8RIKmts1K/story.html?rss_id=Top+Stories>.
Swan, Noelle. “‘Boston Strong’: Has the motto run its course? (+video).” The Christian Science Monitor. N.p., 19 Apr. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2014/0419/Boston-Strong-Has-the-motto-run-its-course-video>.
“What Everyone Should Be Drinking at Today’s Boston Marathon.” Jaunted. N.p., 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <http://www.jaunted.com/story/2014/4/15/175548/702/travel/What+Everyone+Should+Be+Drinking+at+Today’s+Boston+Marathon++>.