Apparently having no problem issuing federal trademark registration for EvilChristians, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is seemingly deeply offended by an application for a design mark entitled Islamic Rage Boy.
Although I have not been in the trademark business as long as Christians an Muslims have been at odds, I have been in the game since long before they took their battle to the USPTO. Apparently, the website The Nose On Your Face (TNOYF) tried to file for federal trademark protection for its Islamic Rage Boy character as used in association with its comedy show broadcast. TNOYF is a comedic website which lampoons mainstream media coverage. TNOYF even has a tagline “News so fake you’ll swear it came from mainstream media.”
Trademark examination is a subjective thing. I am all too acutely aware that the subjective predilections of one trademark examining attorney are not necessarily precedent to another examining attorney. In this case, however, there seems to be more going on than a mere difference of opinion. Although not privy to the rational behind the USPTO’s grant of the EvilChristians trademark, the particular examining attorney involved with the prosecution of Islamic Rage Boy appears, if TNOYF’s reproduction of the USPTO Office Action is to be believed, to be arguing from a position based more on faith than law. Statements that the meaning is “clearly offensive to all Muslims” and that “associating Muslims with the imagery of extreme violence would be offensive . . . to the entire American public” does not seem to be supported by any citations.
While I am not advocating for or against registration of this trademark, the language used by the examining attorney in speaking on behalf of the sensibilities of the entire Muslim population and the American public concerns me greatly. An examining attorney is free to use any facts at his or her disposal to reject a trademark application. An examining attorney is even allowed to use his or her own moral compass to make an initial determination as to whether a particular trademark might be immoral or scandalous. However, when an examining attorney annoints his or herself the sole moral arbiter of what I personally find offensive, that is clearly not appropriate. Such over the line determinations should, on their face, prompt an objective review of the application by examining attorneys who have not demonstrated a bias in the past with regard to the matters at issue.
Immoral matter cannot be registered as a federal trademark. Pundits, however, should be allowed to protect the intellectual property contained in their parody and free speech. Without more information, I cannot determine upon which side of the line this trademark falls. I do feel, however, after reading the Office Action proffered in this case, that the words used by the examining attorney in this case are inflammatory, and indicate a rejection based more on hyperbole and emotion than reason and the rule of law.
For a somewhat irreverent translation of the Office Action in this case, jump over to TNOYF.