iTrump trumps Trump

By Brand Heeler

This story goes to show that money and power can’t necessarily get you everything you want

A US based musician-turned-programmer has won a protracted struggle against the mighty Trump Organization over rights to the iTRUMP trade mark. Tom Scharfield is the founder, CEO and, indeed, sole employee of Spoonjack Apps. A keen brass player, he is the creator of the ‘iTRUMP’ trumpet simulator app, a follow-up to the hugely successful ‘iBONE’ trombone simulator and the absolutely awesome (in all senses of the word) ‘Vuvuzela Man’ app.

Spoonjack applied to register iTRUMP in 2010 but was opposed by the not-yet-POTUS who alleged that the mark falsely suggested a link to his ‘Trump’ business empire. Mr Scharfield could not afford legal representation and so resorted to teaching himself enough US trademark law and litigation practice to counter these arguments, and to deal with some fairly aggressive tactics along the way. Victories for ‘litigants in person’ (i.e. someone fighting their own case without legal representation) are almost unheard of in US trademark law, but Tom not only successfully saw off Trump’s opposition, he then took the fight to the Donald and managed to invalidate the latter’s TRUMP mark in relation to all entertainment services – including reality TV shows!

We reckon this is a nice (not too mention hubristic) reminder that trade marks are all about protecting brands and avoiding confusion in respect of specific goods and services. This does not necessarily equate to allowing big businesses simply to purchase wide-ranging exclusive rights over names or images. No matter how successful or influential the Trump Organization becomes, it will never be able to entirely overcome the fact that its name is a common English word with multiple meanings (some of them rather snigger-some) and is therefore not very inherently distinctive. Mr Trump may just have to get used to the fact that, although he may be the most famous, he is far from the only Trump in the world.

This article contains our thoughts and opinions on an issue of general interest and is written from the perspective of Australian and/or English law. It is not legal advice and is not provided in the context of a solicitor-client relationship. It may not even be relevant to your jurisdiction. No duty of care is assumed or accepted. Please carry out appropriate research and consult with a suitably qualified legal expert before taking any action or making any decisions.

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