Clients who want to trademark a slogan or phrase for their products can come from Santa Ana, California, Palm Springs, CA, Anaheim, Palm Desert, Carlsbad, La Jolla, Newport Beach, Irvine, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Huntington Beach, Ontario, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Tustin, Buena Park, Miurrieta, Rancho Mirage, Orange, Indian Wells or La Quinta. Some have creative ideas that no one has ever thought of before. There are also some people who have difficulty understanding why they can’t trademark something that they were sure was original, but isn’t.
To demonstrate that situation, we present this fictional story of the client who is a child supported by her proud parents. Unfortunately, it is not so different from the occasional consultation we have had.
As a California trademark lawyer, I was contacted by a child wishing to trademark some phrases she had come up with. Her parents were convinced they were on their way toward unheard of riches.
“We want to get trademarks on all of Susie’s special sayings,” the mother told me.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because we think they’re so cute, everyone is going to start saying them,” the mother responded.
“Are you going to use them on any products?” I asked.
“If we get the trademarks, we’ll license them,” the father said.
“And put the money in the bank for Susie’s college tuition,” the mother added.
I explained how they could apply for a trademark on the basis of an intent to use the trademark in the future. But they weren’t interested in the specifics.
“Whatever,” the mother said.
“Okay, what have you got?” I asked.
“Let’s Party,” Susie said.
I searched the phrase on the U.S. Patent and Trademark site and gave the family the bad news. “It’s taken.”
“Rats,” Susie said.
“That’s taken too,” I said.
Susie looked oddly confused.
“What’s your most original phrase,” I asked.
“Let’s play,” Susie said.
“Taken,” I said after I looked up the phrase.
Susie was getting close to having a tantrum. “Bite me,” Susie said angrily.
“That’s taken too,” I said irritating her further.
“I thought Susie’s phrases were so cute…” the mother said.
“You people don’t get out much, do you?” I said.
“Okay, Mr. Smartypants…” the father said.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “You may just have something there.
I looked up the phrase and gave the family the good news. “Mr. Smartypants is still available.”
After the family did a quick dance in celebration, signed an attorney retainer agreement and plopped down the retainer in cash, they left the office planning what products to put their new trademarked phrase onto.
Today, as everyone knows, “Mr. Smartypants” is a household name. You can’t go jogging anywhere today without seeing “Mr. Smartypants” stretched across the backsides of jogger’s clothing (not actually, but this story could become true some day).
While Susie never went to college, and since the idea was her father’s, Susie is only the heir to a massive fortune but now has her own clothing line, “Ms. Smartypants,” which her father allowed her to develop.
None of this story is true of course except the fact that as of the date this fictional story, “Mr. Smartypants” is still available to be trademarked as is “Ms. Smartypants.”