Donald Trump tried to register the phrase “you’re fired” but was denied. Paris Hilton was allowed to register “that’s hot”. What gives? The law of trademark.
Trademark law accomplishes two important objectives: 1) it protects investments to build brand equity in a trademark; 2) it protects consumers from the likelihood of confusion in the marketplace. The second reason explains why the Donald was rejected, and Paris was not.
Another important item to consider is that trademarks are only registered for goods that are actually sold in narrowly defined product markets.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office examiner rejected Donald’s “you’re fired” trademark application in the class of goods for “games”. The rejection was based on a previously registered trademark: “you’re hired”. A company, called Franklin Learning Systems, had registered “you’re hired” for one of its educational board games. The examiner determined that “the similarities between the marks and the goods of the parties are so great as to create a likelihood of confusion.”
In Paris’ case, no one had registered anything similar to “that’s hot” as a federal trademark for the classes of goods and services she applied for, including “men’s and women’s clothing”.