The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a trademark request for "Dykes on Bikes" -- the decades-old grupo lesbo motorcyclo nonprofito de sanfrancisco. Why? Because the word "dyke" was seen as offensive. Oddly, they did grant a trademark for the Bravo TV show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" last year. Link to SF Chronicle story. The EFF's Jason Schultz has posted a rant on the matter here: Link.
Reader comments -- (Ed. note: Some contradictory info follows, so read all the way through and caveat blog-lector. --XJ).
Nate Heasley says,
One might also note that there are a number of trademarks granted for “nigga,” and several for NWA (which don’t use the word nigga in the mark, and not all of which belong to the seminal rap group). There is only one mark granted (since expired) using the word “nigger” however, and it’s an interesting one:
“YOU DON'T HAVE TO FOLLOW ME AROUND THE STORE. I'M NOT GOING TO ROB THE STORE. THAT MEANS I WANT TO STEAL YOUR PURSE? THAT MEANS I'M NOT EDUCATED? YOU DON'T TRUST ME? YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF ME. AND DRIVING A NICE CAR YOU WANT TO PULL ME OVER. AND WEALTHY I MUST BE A CRIMINAL, A RAPPER OR A SPORTS STAR? THAT'S WHY YOU DON'T LIKE ME? THAT DON'T MEAN I'M A NIGGER!”
That whole ‘graph is the mark!
Unfortunately, the USPTO system doesn't allow direct linking to trademark queries -- the link above throws a "search expired" error message. Well, one could always type the file number -- 76309746 -- into the search field on that page...
John L. Welch, "a concerned trademark attorney," says:
The [reader comment] regarding the supposed "nigger" trademark is totally wrong. The "mark" that is set out was never registered, nor was the application ever even examined by the PTO. It was filed based on an "intent to use" with no assertion that the mark had ever been used. The application was withdrawn by the applicant.
So in fact it apparently never was used as a mark, and in fact it never was approved or even examined by the PTO, and obviously was never registered.
L. Perg says,
Here is a direct link to the actions taken on the "Dykes on Bikes" trademark application.
The trademark application mentioned in the San Francisco Chronicle that catalyzed the trademark application, from an individual in Wisconsin for "Dykes on Bikes USA," was voluntarily withdrawn. An application for "Dyke TV" was turned down earlier this year, so there is internal consistency.
Additional clarification: no trademark has ever been granted for "nigga." One application was voluntarily withdrawn, and all of the others were dropped due to failure to respond. There are a few with actions still pending.
I would like to point out that there are many, many successful trademarks containing the word "bitch," however, which I consider to be more offensive than dyke.