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Feds Deny Attempts to Trademark ‘Boston Strong’

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 21: A soldier in the National Guard with a "Boston Strong" flag cheers on runners as they finish the Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. Today marks the 118th Boston Marathon; security presence has been increased this year, due to two bombs that were detonated at the finish line last year, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
A soldier in the National Guard with a "Boston Strong" flag cheers on runners as they finish the 2014 Boston Marathon.(Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The US Patent and Trademark Office has rejected numerous attempts by businesses and individuals to trademark the phrase “Boston Strong.”

Samuel Adams beer-maker Boston Beer Company was among those that filed an application to trademark the slogan soon after last year’s tragedy. The company has said that it wanted to rename its official race beer after “Boston Strong” to help boost the drink’s proceeds, all of which were donated last year to charities that support bombing victims and their families. The company has pledged to do the same for profits from its marathon beer this year.

But, the federal office that oversees trademarks refused Boston Beer Co.’s request, citing prior legal cases and quoting Globe and other media coverage.

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“On April 15, 2013, a bombing occurred at the Boston Marathon that resulted in 3 deaths and more than 260 persons being injured. Following that event, the motto or slogan, ‘BOSTON STRONG,’ emerged, representing ‘a proud mix of resiliency and defiance, an attitude rooted in local culture,’” the patent and trademark office wrote in its decision last summer. “The slogan represented ‘the victims of the bombing, now rebuilding their lives; the law enforcement efforts during the manhunt; the decision, by athletes and organizers, to run the Marathon in 2014.’”

“It ‘began in the immediate aftermath of the marathon bombing havoc as nothing but good intention to unify the city and the relief effort,’” the office continued. “Subsequently, use of the phrase spread ‘beyond fundraising,’ and appeared ‘plastered on t-shirts, bracelets,’ and ‘sports fans took it over as a rallying cry.’”

“It has resulted in a Facebook website; is used by the Boston Red Sox baseball club; appears on shoelace medallions; was the name of a concert in support of the marathon bombing victims; is the title of a planned movie about the marathon bombing; and appears emblazoned across the front of t-shirts provided by numerous different entities,” the decision said. “The use of the slogan is so widespread with respect to the marathon bombing as well as other uses, that its use has become ‘ubiquitous.’”

The federal office has sent similar, if not identical, denial letters in response to at least nine other attempts to trademark “Boston Strong,” according to online filings.

Those seeking to trademark the slogan have included: a Vermont-base entity called “Boston Strong BostonStrong.com LLC”; Meahuna Coffee based in Tewksbury; New England Tea & Coffee Co., Inc. based in Malden; Woburn-based apparel company Born Into It, Inc.; Cathedral Art Metal Co., Inc. in Providence; and three individuals — one from Brockton, one from Connecticut and another from Florida, records show.

An individual in Allston also filed an application to trademark the slogan but rescinded it before the federal office issued a ruling, records show.

“Determining whether a term or slogan functions as a trademark or service mark depends on how it would be perceived by the relevant public,” the office told applicants. “The applied-for mark merely conveys an informational social, political, religious, or similar kind of message; it 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.”

ESPN Boston previously reported on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s denial of “Boston Strong” trademark attempts.

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