Seal Team 6
I haven’t done a trademark post in a while, but the news that Disney has submitted trademark applications for “Seal Team 6,” the designation of the Navy Seal team that killed Bin Laden, is worth discussing.
Trademark law is unique in that under certain circumstances it permits the acquisition of a phrase that recently acquired a high profile by someone who did not invent the phrase. You can’t patent an existing invention simply because you would be better at commercializing it. Same thing for copyright. (Of course, you could purchase these rights from someone else for that reason if they are already patented or copyrighted.) We’ve seen efforts in trademark, though, to gain rights in phrases like “Shock and Awe” (after the Iraq War) or “Let’s Roll” (after 9/11) that were in the public domain.
I suppose the question is whether commercialization is an interest that, standing alone, justifies IP rights. There is growing academic interest in this issue (or at least in separating the innovation and commercialization aspects of IP protection), and these sorts of opportunistic trademark applications might be a good way of looking at that problem.