Playing the Trump Card – The Role of Trade Marks in the US Election

May 17, 2016 Published by

Say what you will about Mr Donald Trump – he never loses sight of a business opportunity.

Back in November 2012, immediately after Mitt Romney lost the election to Barack Obama, Trump applied for the trade mark ‘Make America Great Again’, a slogan first used by Ronald Reagan who successfully campaigned in 1980 with the slogan ‘Let’s Make America Great Again’.

Trump’s registration covered election related services such as ‘promoting public awareness of political issues.’  It did not, however, extend to items such as merchandise – a bit of an oversight.

Certainly Meri Bares and popular country radio host Bobby Estell of California thought so, and filed an application on 5 August 2015  to trademark the use of “Make America Great Again” on everything from hats, t shirts, sweatshirts, socks and swimsuits, backpacks, change purses, wallets, even “dog apparel”.

Two days after lodging the application, Estell, who goes by Bobby Bones, tweeted:

“hey @realDonaldTrump, if you donate 100k to @stjude, I will give you your clothing trademrk back. thanks!—Bobby”

Trump dutifully handed over a $100,000 donation to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in order to have the trade mark assigned over to him.

The Daily Mail reports that ‘Trump has had more success than any of the other candidates in the race selling merchandise with his slogan, most notably baseball caps that are available in a variety of colors and camouflage.’



The Daily Mail has also reported that Trump would really like his potential GOP rivals to stop using it.

“‘I’ve actually trademarked it…I mean, I get tremendous raves for that line. … I could come up with different lines. You would think they would come up with their own. That is my whole theme.”