Can ASL Be Trademarked?

It’s not uncommon for creatives to wrongly assume they invented or coined their artistic expressions.

For example, a certain rock star wanted to register the ILY symbol.

I am not making this up.

Happily the Washington Post noticed the application and announced it to the world less than a week after it was filed.

The applicant filed an express abandonment 5 days later.

But let’s not judge him harshly.

I am reminded of my first “really original” shirt idea. I’ll even tell you the gory details:

Doing keyword research, I stumbled across a shirt that had a pretty good rank, but tons of competition. “Hey!” I thought, “I can make that even better by combining it with the ___ niche! And thus my “original” idea for a clever expression was born.

After spending two days on this design, including hand-drawn graphics (I’m self-taught, remember), I thought I should check for IP infringement before uploading. I looked on TESS, and yippee there were no trademarks pending or registered for the phrase.

Next, I checked Amazon. There were over 100 listings with the same phrase. No joke. I was so disappointed!

Well, I uploaded my design anyway, because the graphics were hand-drawn and I knew there’d be no copycat issues. I sell a few each month.

Here’s the point: it’s easy to think that, because I’ve never seen my idea elsewhere, it’s totally my “brand.” But even if I had coined the expression, or even if I “make it famous” among my followers, that doesn’t make it a source indicator.