BrandSoup: iTrump trumps Trump

In a classic David-versus-Goliath smackdown, a US-based musician-turned-programmer has won a protracted legal struggle against the mighty Trump Organization over rights to the ‘iTrump’ trade mark.

Tom Scharfield is the founder, CEO and, indeed, sole employee of app developer Spoonjack. A keen brass player, he is the creator of the ‘iTrump’ trumpet simulator app, a follow-up to the hugely successful ‘iBone’ trombone simulator and the absolutely awesome (in all senses of the word) ‘Vuvuzela Man’ app. 

Spoonjack applied to register iTrump in 2010 but was opposed by the not-yet-POTUS, who alleged that the mark falsely suggested a link to his ‘Trump’ business empire.

Mr Scharfield could not afford legal representation and so resorted to teaching himself enough US trademark law and litigation practice to counter these arguments, and to deal with some fairly aggressive tactics along the way.

Victories for ‘litigants in person’ (i.e. someone fighting their own case without legal representation) are almost unheard of in US trademark law. But Tom not only successfully saw off Trump’s opposition, he then took the fight to the Donald and managed to invalidate the latter’s Trump mark in relation to all entertainment services – including reality TV shows!

BrandSoup reckons this is a nice (not too mention hubristic) reminder that trade marks are all about protecting brands and avoiding confusion in respect of specific goods and services. This does not necessarily equate to allowing big businesses simply to purchase wide-ranging exclusive rights over names or images.

No matter how successful or influential the Trump Organization becomes, it will never be able to entirely overcome the fact that its name is a common English word with multiple meanings (some of them rather snigger-some) and with therefore a rather low inherent distinctiveness.

Mr Trump might just have to get used to the fact that despite being the most famous Trump in the world, he is far from being the only one.

BrandSoup is a hearty concoction of crunchy facts, delicious ideas and fresh opinions served up monthly for the delight of Creative Business News readers by Thrings intellectual property partner Graeme Fearon. He’ll be stirring the bowl of current affairs, and looking for tidbits of brand, intellectual property and technology news to savour and share again next month. Spoons to the ready! 

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