1. Nintendo – “It’s on like Donkey Kong”
Nintendo has recently applied to trademark the phrase “It’s on like Donkey Kong.” Interestingly enough, the phrase has existed since at least 1992, when rapper Ice Cube used it as the opening line in his song “Now I Gotta Wet’cha.” The company has announced that it is applying for the trademark “in honor” of the upcoming release of its new game Donkey Kong Country Returns although the phrase has not appeared in any Donkey Kong games and there is little evidence to support the idea that Nintendo originated it.
2. Subway – “Footlong”
In November, 2007, Subway applied to register a trademark on the term “Footlong” to describe its 12-inch sandwiches. Although the trademark is pending, the company has reportedly sent out cease and desist letters to various restaurants, including the Coney Island Drive Inn, which has sold foot long hot dogs since 1963. It is unclear whether Subway’s request will be approved, however, a number of competitors, including Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silvers, and A&W Restaurants, are opposed to the request, claiming that the term is too generic to be trademarked.
3. The Situation – “The Situation”
Reality television star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, of Jersey Shore fame, recently attempted to trademark his nickname, “The Situation.” Originated by Sorrentino as a name for his muscular stomach, he wanted to sell t-shirts and underwear under the brand. To Sorrentino’s likely dismay, there already is a “Situation” trademark used by another clothing manufacturer, and including the article “the” does not sufficiently differentiate the two phrases from one another.
4. Wal-Mart – Smiley Face
Although the image has existed since the 1960s, Wal-Mart attempted to register a trademark on its well-known smiley face logo in 2006. The company had used the image extensively up to that point, but had not attempted to the own legal rights until Franklin Loufrani, who claims to have invented the smiley face and holds rights to it an some other countries, tried to gain exclusive rights to the image in the United States. Both parties failed to get the trademark due to it being too generic, however, and Wal-Mart has since abandoned the logo.
5. New England Patriots – “19-0” and “19-0 The Perfect Season”
In an embarrassing move on their part, the New England Patriots applied to trademark the phrases “19-0” and “19-0 The Perfect Season” in 2008, as the team was heading into the Super Bowl XLII with an 18-0 record. The move, of course, was meant to provide the franchise with greater merchandising rights were they to win the big game. Unfortunately for New England, the team lost. The loss brought much enjoyment to the New York Post, which in a whimsical move filed a trademark application for 18-1.