Trademark Law Pays Its Respects: The Names of Deceased Presidents Are Protected from Being Used as Trademarks, Sometimes Long after Death

By Carl, Fred,, III | American Journalism Review, August-September 2004 | Go to article overview

Trademark Law Pays Its Respects: The Names of Deceased Presidents Are Protected from Being Used as Trademarks, Sometimes Long after Death


Carl, Fred,, III, American Journalism Review


President Reagan, who was protected in life by Secret Service agents, is now, after death, being protected from trademark infringement in ways that common citizens of the United States will never be.

Tucked deep within the many paragraphs of the trademark laws of our country is a provision that continues to protect Ronald Reagan's name from being used as a trademark, possibly for decades after his death. This protection is not afforded to common citizens of the United States. It is not provided to sports or movie stars, military heroes or the justices of the Supreme Court. It may not seem fair, but the 40th president and one-time movie star gets preferential treatment.

In the United States, all people are protected from having their names turned into trademarks during their lives. It is considered a personal right of publicity, codified in the federal trademark laws passed in 1946. Michael Jordan, Martha Stewart and the Olsen twins have all relied on this part of the law to protect their rights. Without this law, anyone could take the names of these celebrities, slap them on products and make some quick money. Many public figures have made millions by carefully exploiting and controlling the rights to their names as trademarks.

However, this personal right expires upon the death of the person. That is the nature of a personal right. So, during her life, Condoleezza Rice can stop someone from using her name as a trademark, but after her death, we may see Condoleezza Ricecakes on store shelves. There is little her family could do about this under the trademark law, unless Rice becomes president before she passes away. Dead presidents get more protection from this name hijacking than all others. Even the National Security Advisor is not safe from being turned into the BETTY CROCKER of politics within days of her death.

After the death of a president, his name cannot be used as a trademark during the life of his widow, unless the widow provides her consent. This little-known and rarely used part of the law seems anachronistic even beyond the 1940s gender specificity that provides only for male presidents and their female widows.

Imagine Congress, circa 1945, discussing this part of the law. In a less cynical time, the respected name of the president might have been considered a valuable commodity. While a president could protect himself from the undignified experience of finding his name on product packaging during his lifetime, Congress must have wondered how to protect the public from similar humiliation in the days after the death of a president. The challenge to drafting the law would be determining how long after death the presidential name should be protected from trademark "squatters."

It would have been an unreasonable restraint on trade to prevent all future use of a president's name as a trademark. This would keep the inevitable John Tylers, Andrew Johnsons and Chester Arthurs from legitimately using their own names on their own products. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Trademark Law Pays Its Respects: The Names of Deceased Presidents Are Protected from Being Used as Trademarks, Sometimes Long after Death
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.