SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The revolution will be trademarked and put on T-shirts if an increasing number of entrepreneurs succeed in their attempts to profit from the Occupy demonstrations.
A few T-shirts began to appear several days after the first protest began on Sept. 17 with a march through the streets of lower Manhattan.
Now, T-shirts, coffee mugs and other merchandise emblazoned with Occupy locations and slogans are being offered online and amid the campsites that have sprung up in cities across the country.
A number of merchandise vendors, clothing designers and others are making plans to market a wide-variety of goods for a wide-variety of reasons even as some protesters decry the business plans as directly counter to the demonstrations' goals.
In recent weeks the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has received a spate of applications from enterprising merchandisers, lawyers and others seeking to win exclusive commercial rights to such phrases as “We are the 99 percent,” “Occupy” and “Occupy DC 2012.”
Organizers of the protest centered in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park went so far as to file for a trademark of “Occupy Wall Street” after several other applications connected to the demonstrations were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Wylie Stecklow, a lawyer representing the protesters, said the Oct. 24 filing was done to prevent profiteering from a movement many say is a protest against corporate greed. “I would like to ensure that this isn't coopted for commercial purposes,” Stecklow said.
His application was one of three filed to trademark either “Occupy Wall Street” or “Occupy Wall St.”
Vince Ferraro, a small businessman based in Arizona, applied to trademark “Occupy Wall Street” a few hours after Stecklow. “If I prevail, I believe there are opportunities in commerce not directly related to the movement,” he said.
Both Stecklow and Ferraro were beat to the trademark office by a Long Island couple who filed for “Occupy Wall St.” on Oct. 16. Robert and Diane Maresca paid $975 for the application, which said they intended to put the phrase on a wide variety of products. But the couple has withdrawn their application, leaving Stecklow's clients and Ferraro competing to own “Occupy Wall Street.”
The trademark office said it takes about three months to make an initial determination, and gives priority to the first received, but also takes into consideration whether the phrase was in wide use before the first application was filed.
“The irony is too rich,” said Ron Coleman, a trademark attorney and author of a popular trademark blog. He predicted the New York protesters would prevail because they've been using the phrase the longest, but questioned how the trademark could be managed by a group claiming to be leaderless: “Who has authority to speak on behalf of the trademark?”
Among those not waiting for the trademark office is Ray Agrinzone, a clothing designer who launched theoccupystore.
com earlier this month offering T-shirts, hoodies and even gift certificates.
He said he intends to donate 10 percent of his yet to be seen profits to the Occupy Wall Street organizers, and proposes that a section of Zuccotti Park be turned into a merchandise zone to benefit the movement because “There is no better way to spread the message of revolution than through clothes.”
Photo: Staff Illustration