Trump
NBC  /  Reuters
Entrepreneur Donald Trump and his television production partners have filed to trademark the phrase "You're fired" for use in clothing and other products.
By Martin Wolk
msnbc.com
updated 3/30/2004 5:40:00 PM ET 2004-03-30T22:40:00

Donald Trump is hardly the first boss to utter the dreaded words, “You’re fired!” But he just might be the first to realize the commercial potential of the expression.

Now that Trump's weekly ritual firings have helped turn NBC's “The Apprentice” into one of the hottest shows on television, the billionaire developer has applied to trademark his favorite two-word phrase.

Trump recently filed applications to trademark the words “You’re fired!” for use on clothing, games and “casino services,” according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He also filed applications to trademark the phrases “You’re Fired! The Donald” and “You’re Fired! Donald J. Trump.”

Sharon Marsh, an administrator with the trademark office, said it usually takes at least a year for an examiner to determine whether a phrase qualifies for trademark protection. News of Trump’s trademark plans was first reported Thursday by the Smoking Gun, a Web site.

Trump has made a career out of using his image to sell high-end real estate, plastering his name on luxury hotels, casinos and condominium towers. In Manhattan alone, well-heeled and status-conscious buyers can find shelter at Trump Tower, Trump World Tower, Trump International Hotel & Tower, Trump Park Avenue and others.

Lately he has taken to licensing his name for others to use on gold-plated developments abroad including Trump World in Seoul, South Korea.

Trump already has been granted at least two dozen U.S. trademarks related to his name and has more pending, covering everything from a Trump credit card to Trump bottled water and beer, according to patent office records.

So it should come as no surprise that the opportunistic Trump is seeking new ways to cash in on his success with  “The Apprentice,” which has been renewed for a second season after turning into NBC’s most popular show with an average of 20 million people tuning in each week. (MSNBC is a partnership of Microsoft and NBC.)

And there is nothing to stop Trump and his partner, Mark Burnett Productions, from winning trademark rights to the phrase, said Jim Kayden, an intellectual property attorney

“It would be easy to trademark a phrase that had not been used on clothing for use on clothing, as long as the mark is not descriptive of the product or somehow generic,” said Kayden, a partner with Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley in Atlanta.

Given the massive publicity Trump has gotten for the hit show, he could easily make the case that the phrase is readily identifiable with him and would not cause any confusion in the minds of consumers, Kayden said.

If Trump wins the trademarks, he would have a tool to block others from marketing clothing with the phrase “You’re fired,” just as Nike has done with its trademarked advertising phrase “Just do it,” Kayden said.

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