Trademarking “OK Boomer”
You may have heard that the generational battle between “millennials” and “baby boomers” now has a catch phrase: “OK Boomer”. It’s a dismissive phrase by those darn youngsters who are loitering on your lawn and forgetting to pull up their pants. I’m kidding about the loitering and the pants, but the catchphrase is a real thing, and it’s also become a meme. If you don’t know what a meme is, then chances are that you’re a boomer and may be more interested in other articles in this newsletter instead. But I digress.
“OK Boomer” has become so popular that there’s a semi-official song, and a 25 year-old member of the New Zealand parliament used the phrase to shut down a heckler. There are even “OK Boomer” t-shirts. Cue the inevitable trademark applications.
As of November 20, 2019, the US Patent and Trademark Office database shows five trademark applications for variations of “OK Boomer”, including an application filed by Fox Entertainment on November 11, 2019 for use in “an on-going television series featuring reality competition, comedy, and game shows”. Seriously. However, it’s unlikely that any of these trademark applications will actually be approved, for several reasons:
- It’s a “widely used message”. According to the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (the guide for the trademark office’s examining attorneys), slogans, and common phrases will be rejected. “The more commonly a term or phrase is used in everyday speech or in an associational or affinitive manner by various sources, the less likely consumers will perceive the matter as a trademark or service mark for any goods and services.”
- It isn’t related to a specific brand. A mark will be refused if it “does not function as a mark to identify and distinguish the applicant’s goods.” The Trademark Act states that, with certain exceptions, “No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature…
- The phrase is “merely informational” and consumers would understand it as “merely conveying general information about the goods or services or an informational message, and not as a means to identify and distinguish the applicant’s goods/services from those of others.”
Anyone wanting a trademark on the term “OK Boomer” should probably check with LeBron James – the USPTO recently rejected his trademark application for “Taco Tuesday” on the grounds that it’s a widely used message.
And if you didn’t get the reference to Taco Tuesday? It’s just possible that you are a boomer. And that’s OK!
— Joshua Waterston, Esq.