Palin trademark application refused -- for now

WASHINGTON Sat Feb 5, 2011 5:08pm EST

Former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin speaks at a Tea Party Express rally on Boston Commons in Boston, Massachusetts April 14, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin speaks at a Tea Party Express rally on Boston Commons in Boston, Massachusetts April 14, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's bid to trademark her name and that of her daughter, Bristol, ran into trouble at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because the application forms were unsigned, government records show.

Applications to trademark the names Sarah Palin and Bristol Palin, both for "motivational speaking services," were filed on November 5 by the Palins' longtime family attorney, Thomas Van Flein, but were quickly slapped down by a trademark examiner.

"Registration is refused because the applied-for mark, SARAH PALIN, consists of a name identifying a particular living individual whose consent to register the mark is not of record," the patent agency said in an office action.

"Please note this refusal will be withdrawn if applicant provides written consent from the individual identified in the applied-for mark," the patent office said.

The office also said Palin's application failed to show that her name had been used in commerce and could also be rejected on those grounds.

Bristol Palin's application also will need to be redone, according to a similar office action filed in her case.

The applications will be fixed, and the trademarks are likely to be granted, said attorney John Tiemessen, now handling the trademark process for Palin.

"We're working on it," Tiemessen told Reuters.

Tiemessen is with the law firm Clapp, Peterson, Tiemessen, Thorsness, Johnson, LLC.

Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president in 2008, has become one of the most recognizable names in U.S. politics and a darling of the conservative Tea Party movement that helped sweep Republicans to a majority in the House of Representatives during the 2010 elections.

Her daughter, Bristol, became a fan sensation as a contestant on the popular ABC show "Dancing with the Stars."

An unwed, single mom as a teenager, Bristol has also increasingly made a name for herself giving talks about teen pregnancy and abstinence from sex.

Both women also have staked out careers on the lecture circuit, as their trademark applications attest.

The governor seeks to register her name in conjunction with "providing motivational speaking services in the field of politics, culture, business and values," her application says.

It also cites her services in "providing a website featuring information about political issues."

Her daughter seeks a trademark in connection with her role as a motivational speaker "in the field of life choices."

Legal experts said it is relatively unusual for politicians to formally trademark their names because they are generally not associated with commercially valuable products or services. Trademarking a name is more common for celebrities in the fields of entertainment, fashion or sports.

"There's difference between being famous and being a brand," said Claudia Ray, a partner in the New York-based firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, which specializes in trademark law.

"Sarah is somebody who is now out of government and pursuing other activities, in particular, speaking engagements ... and it looks like she's looking to protect her name with those activities."

Jim Vana, a trademark specialist and partner with the Seattle law firm Perkins Coie, said safeguarding exclusive rights to one's own name is just part of the story.

"It helps to turn your fame and recognition into a brand that you can use to promote goods and services," he said.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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