Have you wondered who owns the trademark to Juneteenth? Before we begin to discuss Juneteenth and trademarks, it's important to discuss the history and purpose of Juneteenth.
History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the civil war and the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 2½ years earlier on January 1, 1863, many enslavers continued to hold enslaved Black people captive after the announcement. While this day has historically been celebrated by Black/African-American people across the United States, Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.
Can you trademark Juneteenth?
While there have been many individuals and companies who have tried to trademark Juneteenth, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued Office Actions against the trademark applications. There are registered trademarks that include the word Juneteenth, such as "Juneteenth Unity Fest", "'Free Ish Juneteenth", and Juneteenth Apparel. The additional words added enough distinction for these trademarks to be approved by the trademark examining attorney, and ultimately registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The registered trademarks all include a trademark disclaimer which states, "No claim is made to the exclusive right to use "Juneteenth" apart from the mark as shown. Upon a search of the USPTO database, it was found that the trademark applications for "Juneteenth" (no additional words included), all received the same type of Office Action. The trademark applications all received a failure to function office action. It is highly likely that these trademark applications will ultimately be rejected by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
What does a Failure to Function Office Action mean?
A failure to function office action is when a registration is refused because the applied for mark is a slogan or term that does not function as a trademark or service mark, to indicate the source of applicant's goods and/or services and to identify and distinguish them from others. If the trademark application includes a mark that is an informational, social, political, religious, or similar kind of message that merely conveys support of, administration for, or affiliation with the ideals conveyed by the message. Terms and phrases that merely convey an informational message are not registrable with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Juneteenth is Protected from being Trademarked
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has determined that Juneteenth is a commonly used message to refer to the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States of America. Thus, no individual nor company will be able to claim exclusive trademark and other intellectual property rights to "Juneteenth".
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