New York developer Donald Trump, who is apparently trying to corner the market on chutzpah as well as real estate, is seeking to trademark a common expression: “You’re fired.”
As millions of NBC TV viewers know, Trump has been saying those two words a lot lately. The payoff of his unscripted show “The Apprentice” comes when Trump narrows his gaze, jabs his finger and barks, “You’re fired,” to one of the young applicants competing for a job at his firm.
Trump’s application to the federal Patent and Trademark Office says he wants to control use of the expression with “games and playthings” and “casino services.”
That suggests that Trump’s casinos soon will feature “You’re fired” slot machines or other games that incorporate the humiliating phrase, said Los Angeles intellectual property attorney Christopher Chaudoir of Pillsbury Winthorp. “He probably wants to keep another casino from using a similar game,” Chaudoir said.
Previous efforts to lock up use of everyday expressions have had mixed results. Fox News Network trademarked the phrase “fair and balanced” in 1998 to describe its news coverage but failed to prohibit satirist Al Franken from using the words on the cover of his 2003 book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.”
During the last two years, U.S. officials were flooded with applications to trademark the expressions “Let’s Roll” and “Shock and Awe” in connection with products ranging from condoms to mudflaps.
Trademarking “You’re fired” will be very difficult, said Chaudoir, and if successful, for only limited purposes.
“There’s not going to be a situation where an employer who wants to say that would have to go get a license from Mr. Trump,” Chaudoir said. “I’m sure he would love that, but it’s not going to happen.”