Donald Trump’s presidency has raised all sorts of unprecedented issues because of his vast business interests. There’s no avoiding apparent conflicts of interest because he and his brand are nearly inseparable. Can a U.S. President trademark his own image though? More precisely, can a person who had his own image trademarked maintain that trademark once elected President?
You may have seen the story about Trump Organization goons trying to shut down a California teen’s parody website where users can swat at Trump’s floating head with cat paws.
The San Francisco-based teen developed the site for fun while applying for web developer jobs. The original domain name was trumpscratch.com, but she changed it after receiving a March 1 cease and desist letter from The Trump Organization. The letter claims her site infringed on the “internationally known and famous” Trump trademark.
The website is still up but the developer had to change the domain from trumpscratch.com to kittenfeed.com.
“The fact that as president he still has teams going around bothering to shut down silly sites like mine is outrageous,” says Lucy. “Literally all my site is, is punching him with kitten paws. A president should not have the time or care to hire people to shut sites like mine down. He should be running the country, not tweeting about TV ratings or anything else like that.”
There’s a lot of truth to that but I imagine the people chasing down this sort of infringement aren’t being directed by Trump himself. Smacking down any possible trademark infringement is just their daily grind I’m sure. There was a hamburger stand that opened near me that called itself “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” They were forced to change their name by a similar team of goons employed by Jimmie Buffett. I doubt Buffett was ever even aware of the situation.
People have a right to protect their intellectual property but what happens when the name and image being protected becomes President of the United States? As a public figure doesn’t he become fair game for parody? I don’t know. It will be interesting to see what else the Trump Organization tries to shut down.