Illinois Woman Seeks Trademark Protection for “I Can’t Breathe”

By Joseph Mandour on December 30, 2014

cautionOrange County – “I can’t breathe” has echoed throughout the country in the months following Eric Garner’s death and the controversial case that followed. The infamous three words have been chanted by protestors, represented on banners and signs, and printed on clothing worn by professional athletes across the country.

In July, Eric Garner was killed during an altercation with a police officer. Garner’s death was apparently caused by being placed in a chokehold. This sparked a wave of protests and demonstrations with the words “I can’t breathe” as the movement’s slogan.

Eric Garner’s last words are now facing a new spotlight. Catherine Crump of Illinois filed a Trademark Application for “I can’t breathe” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (‘USPTO’) for use in relation to apparel. Crump hopes to register the trademark and commercially control the phrase.

According to the USPTO, Crump applied for the trademark on December 13th 2014 and it includes “clothing, namely hoodies, T-shirts for men, women, boys, girls and infants.” On the application, Crump claims her first use of the phrase was August 18th of this year which was just a month after Garner’s death.

Crump has no relation to the Garner family, and they are not working with Crump to register the trademark. Crump assured reporters that she is not looking for financial gain by attempting to register the trademark, however an alternate motive was not mentioned.

The “I can’t breathe” trademark application is not the first time that events from a controversial case have merged with the trademark sphere. The similarity debated case involving the August death of Michael Brown saw a new wave of trademark applications for “hands up don’t shoot.” The USPTO website shows at least three different such trademark applications.

Since “I can’t breathe” and “hands up don’t shoot” have both been in widespread use on apparel by many including Lebron James, the rights to the exclusive commercial use via trademark protection is debatable.

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