Donald Trump Threatens Lawsuits over Make America Great Again Trademark

By Joseph Mandour on October 19, 2015

voteSan Diego – Last month Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to CafePress threatening to file a lawsuit if the company did not stop selling products with the phrase, “Make America Great Again.” Though CafePress is the only confirmed company to receive a cease and desist letter, it’s likely other online companies also received letters.

The phrase, “Make America Great Again” is a key part of the Trump campaign. While the phrase, “Let’s make America Great Again” was first used by Ronald Reagan’s campaign, Trump was the first to file a trademark application in November 2012. Trump finally received the trademark registration in July 2015.

The trademark registration granted to Trump applies to political action committee services, but does not explicitly apply to items such as hats and T-shirts. In August of this year, Trump filed more Make American Great Again trademark applications to cover those types of items. Given the long process of reviewing and approving trademarks, it may be many months before the newer trademark applications are approved.

In the meantime, online stores such as CafePress and Etsy have been selling products with the “Make America Great Again” slogan. No part of the proceeds from the sale of political campaign products, such as a “Make America Great Again” hat, on these websites go to Trump. In contrast, purchases made through Trump’s website are donated to the campaign.
Trump’s general counsel raised the argument that some political supporters may believe they are supporting the campaign by buying these campaign items, when in reality they are buying counterfeit goods.

Alan Garten, Trump’s attorney, stated, “People will say this is a free speech issue, but using Mr. Trump’s trademark for your own personal profit is not protected by the First Amendment.” Trump’s attorney has argued the issue is not about money, and is instead around protecting Trump’s brand and trademark.

Trump is not the only candidate alleging trademark infringement. A lawyer for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson also demanded the removal of products on CafePress. In response to Carson’s cease and desist letter, a representative for CafePress replied, “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand how baseless these claims are.”

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