No, the Trump Fence Company won’t build the big, beautiful wall that Donald Trump vows along the Mexican border. Trump Wine may be a real thing, but Trump Champagne has nothing to do with the developer-turned-presidential candidate. Trump’s Memory Pills? The Donald isn’t hawking those either.
Long before his latest incarnation as the leading Republican presidential candidate, Trump was known as a master of branding, his name adorning everything from skyscrapers to steaks. Now that Trump’s campaign has made him one of the most famous people on Earth, others are trying to out-huckster him by putting his name or likeness on coins, champagne and even a “fence company” that sells paraphernalia but not, at least for now, actual fences.
For the most part, advisers to the actual Trump and the federal trademark office aren’t buying these attempts to cash in on his name.
“We always want to encourage people who are supportive of Mr. Trump and his brand, but I have to protect his name and his brands from infringement, regardless of the intent,” said Alan Garten, executive vice president and general counsel of the Trump Organization, the New York-based company that has sold the family name to fragrances, spring water, eyeglasses, pillowcases and a cornucopia of products once so broad as to include frozen beef.
Garten said outsiders have attempted to profit off Trump long before he announced in June 2015 that he was running for president. Since then, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has received more than 50 Trump-related applications, some from Trump’s companies, others from supporters trying to put his name on hats and T-shirts, and still others more ambiguous, like the Connecticut-based Trump Fence Company, Arizona-based Trump Champagne and Trump Mafia, an application for “physical and virtual merchandise for use by members of an online community.”
Trump’s slogan, Make America Great Again, has inspired a line of cosmetics. It’s called Makeup America Great Again.
Others aren’t bothering with trademarks, or many other laws. A New Hampshire woman was arrested in March on charges of selling bags of heroin stamped “Donald Trump,” according to police. E-mail spammers are hawking “Trump’s Memory Booster” pills that supposedly endow takers with the namesake’s “laser focus.”
The fence company sells hats, t-shirts and coffee mugs with its motto in red, white and blue, mimicking Trump’s own logo. According to Garten, the company isn’t part of Trump’s business or political empires. Rather, supporters in Connecticut devised the idea after listening to Trump talk about building a border wall, said Lisa Miro, a spokeswoman for the fence company. She admitted that the company doesn’t make fences as its founder, Colton Amster, is in the car-restoration business.
“He has the people and the manpower to build a fence, but the priority is really high-end restorations,” Miro said.
The man behind Trump Champagne, Richard Fox of Phoenix, said his product is “absolutely stealth” and declined to comment further. The Trump Winery in Virginia, run by Donald’s son, Eric Trump, sells sparkling wines but legally can’t call them Champagne because they’re not from the appropriate region of France.
A California coin dealer, the New Liberty Dollar LLC, is selling gold, silver and copper coins with Trump’s likeness on the obverse and a torch with the words, “vote non politician” on the reverse. Bernard von NotHaus, a principal in the company, said he minted similar coins for Ron Paul when the former Texas congressman ran for president in 2008.
“This is a form of down-home activism,” von NotHaus said. “I’m not really in this for money.”
Other trademark applications run toward the anodyne: pro-Trump T-shirts, hats, keychains, bumper stickers and other miscellany that looks different enough from Trump’s own logo as to provoke no complaint from his campaign or businesses. Garsten said parodies are protected by the First Amendment and slogans also are OK as long as they don’t appear to come from the campaign.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office doesn’t comment on specific applications, spokesman Ryan Elliott said.
Applications typically take a year, so by the time many filings inspired by Trump’s campaign reach the front of the line, Trump may be out of the race or on his way to the White House, said Erik Pelton, a trademark attorney in suburban Washington who’s not involved with any Trump-related applications.
Pelton said the office is likely to reject most pro-Trump applications because living individuals usually have to give permission to use their likenesses for commercial purposes.
“The more famous a brand is, the more protection it gets,” Pelton said, “and there aren’t many brands more famous than Trump’s.”