California Intellectual Property Blog


Mississippi Business Man Files Trademark for “N” word

Los Angeles – In June 2017, a Mississippi business owner, Curtis Bordenave, filed a trademark application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for use of a racial slur—the “N” word. The goal behind the trademark filing is not to be offensive, but to change people’s perception and the meaning of the word.

Having trademark applications such as this approved only recently became possible due to a Supreme Court ruling regarding the SLANTS. The SLANTS are an Asian American band that filed a trademark application to protect their band name but were refused because the trademark office deemed the trademark to be offensive. However, in June 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government does not have the authority to prevent people from trademarking offensive names. Curtis Bordenave and other likeminded individuals want to take these controversial words and turn them into symbols of hope, positivity and unity. Under a similar approach, Steven Maynard, has filed a trademark application for a version of the swastika. Maynard, owner of Snowflake Enterprises LLC in Delaware, wants to be sure that trademark rights to the swastika do not fall into the wrong hands.

Bordenave, who is African American, applied for a similar trademark in 2008 but was not successful. Bordenave is not the only applicant for the “N” word trademark and he also fears the trademark may end up in the wrong hands. Though offensive to some, the “N” word is thought to have marketing potential due to its increased use in popular culture.

Bordenave and Maynard seem to agree that when words and symbols such as these are concealed, the negatively around the words and symbols tend to persist. Bordenave strongly believes that he was meant to trademark the “N” word so that it can be redefined. By giving the word a clear new definition and a stronger, more positive meaning— it becomes more difficult for people to use it destructively. Bordenave insists that by trademarking the “N” word it can do a lot of good for the community and in reshaping the way we think about offensive words. With the recent Supreme Court ruling and changes in popular culture, it is not hard to imagine that future generations may have an entirely different perception of certain words that the generations in the past.

Bordenave’s plan is to use the trademark for various products including apparel, games, cosmetics, and mobile apps. Bordenave’s application has not yet been review by the trademark office.


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