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article imageOp-Ed: 'Hands Up Don't Shoot', 'I Can't Breathe', protests & trademarks

By Malysa Stratton Louk     Dec 20, 2014 in World
Protest chants and slogans catch on quick as supporters take to the streets chanting and marching for their cause, while others see it as a money-making opportunity.
It's common during and after a tragic event to see posters and t-shirts with the protest chant scrawled across the front. In come cases, t-shirts, mugs and other items are printed with the victim's name and image, most often as a fundraiser for the victim or the victim's family.
That isn't always the case. Catherine Crump of Waukegan, Illinois recently applied to trademark the phrase "I Can't Breathe," Eric Garner's last words as he was held in a choke-hold by NYPD officers. Crump claims to have used the phrase for commercial purposes since August 18 and intends to continue using it to produce t-shirts, sweatshirts and other items.
Crump isn't the first person to apply for trademark rights in an attempt to cash in on protest chants and make money from nationwide coverage. Billy Allen applied to trademark the slogan "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" to use on clothing, footwear and headgear. Allen applied for the trademark in August as an attempt to monetize the familiar chant of Ferguson, resulting from the shooting of Michael Brown.
In March 2012, Marcus Singletary applied to trademark the phrase "Justice for Trayvon" for use on hooded sweatshirts.
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In the same month, Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, applied to trademark both slogans — "I am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon." At the time, it was suggested that his mother trademarked the phrases to prevent misuse later on and also as a fundraiser for the Trayvon Martin Foundation.
While Trayvon Martin's mother had a legitimate reason as a grieving mother for trademarking her son's protest chant, Crump and Allen have no personal interest in the phrases other than monetary. It's not surprising some random person would try to trademark the phrase "I can't breathe."
Protestors and supporters of Garner and Brown are sure to make it worthwhile and profitable for people like Crump and Allen who have no interest in the cause and see a tragedy as nothing more than a way to make a profit.
Those who choose to trademark, patent and otherwise register slogans and chants such as "I can't breathe" and "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" are well within their rights to do so, but it is an act of very poor taste. For those who support the cause, whatever the cause may be, you're better off making your own outerwear and posters instead of supporting those who only see the cause as a dollar sign.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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