Not everything can be trademarked. Understanding how they work and what can or cannot be trademarked can be a slippery and dangerous slide down the rabbit hole. After the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013, several companies made an attempt at trademarking the slogan that emerged from the tragedy – “Boston Strong”.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has denied several applications to trademark “Boston Strong” over the last 12 months. One of the most notable applications was from Boston Beer Company, the maker of Samuel Adams beers. Boston Beer Company attempted to trademark “Boston Strong” shortly after the bombing and subsequent manhunt. The company argued they would like to utilize “Boston Strong” as the name of their marathon beer; the proceeds of the beer would go to aid victims of the bombing and their families.

The USPTO has denied several applicants based on the widespread use and media coverage of the slogan. It has become something of a “rally cry” and is being utilized so widely that attempting to garner trademark protection for the phrase would be nearly impossible. It would appear that “Boston Strong” will remain a slogan used, without infringement by many groups looking to raise awareness and money to aid victims of the horrific bombing.

While “Boston Strong” has been heavily covered in the news, it is not the first time a tragedy has sparked a catchphrase and subsequent races for trademarking. After Superstorm Sandy decimated much of the New Jersey shoreline a slogan emerged from the waterlogged boardwalks and twisted piers; “Restore the Shore” became a catchphrase seen on T-shirts, hats, television commercials, and sweatpants.

Much of the money made on such items were donated to restore the New Jersey shore to its former glory, but a trademark war quickly emerged in 2013, when two T-shirt printers attempted to trademark the phrase. The USPTO have yet to review more than five applications to trademark “Restore the Shore”.


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