Sarah Palin Inc. Can she trademark her name?

Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol want to trademark their names – a legal action more typical of celebrity figures in sports, fashion, and entertainment. As well-paid "motivational speakers," they've already made their mark.

Max Whittaker/Reuters
Sarah Palin buttons are displayed for sale outside the Safari Club International Convention in Reno, Nevada, last month.

It’s been said by her critics and mockers that Sarah Palin has become a brand, peddling herself with well-paid speeches, books written with a lot of help from professional wordsmiths, her own “reality” TV show, and those little key chains trimmed with genuine “Mama Grizzly” fur. (OK, so we made up the bit about the key chains.)

Now, it appears, Mrs. Palin – and her “Dancing with the Stars” daughter Bristol – really do want to be identified with a personal economic brand. They’ve applied to have their names trademarked. "Sarah Palin®" and "Bristol Palin®."

Not to sell souvenir coffee mugs or hats with their visage, but as “motivational speakers.” In the former Alaska governor’s case, that could prevent, say, Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey from performing as “Sarah Palin.” Or vice versa if it turns out that Tina Fey is actually “Tina Fey®.”

According to papers filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (and first reported by Politics Daily), Mrs. Palin is seeking to trademark her name for "educational and entertainment services … providing motivational speaking services in the field of politics, culture, business and values."

The younger Ms. Palin’s application is for "educational and entertainment services, namely, providing motivational speaking services in the field of life choices."

As a 20 year-old who became a single mom as a teenager, Bristol Palin already has a lucrative career speaking about “life choices” – giving speeches and appearing on panels regarding teen abstinence.

In addition to “Dancing with the Stars,” Ms. Palin has appeared on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and of course “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” And she’s formed her own public relations and political consulting firm.

Bristol as controversial as her mother

Trademark or not, Bristol Palin as a paid public speaker seems to be as controversial as her mother.

Last month, Washington University in St. Louis withdrew an invitation for her to speak on a panel for “Student Sexual Responsibility Week.”

“Because of the growing controversy among undergraduates over the decision to pay for her talk with student-generated funds” the committee and Palin decided against the appearance, the university said in a statement.

The former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP nominee for vice-president keeps being mentioned as a possible 2012 presidential candidate, even though her “unfavorable” ratings remain high and a large majority of Americans don’t think she’s qualified to run the country.

But her every word and act remain politically mesmerizing. Did those cross-hairs over elected officials targeted for defeat have anything to do with violent public discourse? Are her comments on the ground-shaking revolution in Egypt worth noting?

“Her staying power is that she has risen above the stature of mere conservative politician, subject to the rules of the game,” Monitor columnist Walter Rodgers observed recently. “Rather she’s become a true entertainer who happens to be wildly popular among some conservative voters.”

Meanwhile, the trademarking process for the Palins continues. Once completed, they will join other celebrities in protecting their name with that little ®.

'Everybody's name is their brand'

"Everybody's name is sort of their brand, and once it gets associated with goods or services, then it functions as a trademark," Marshall Nelson, a Seattle attorney specializing in copyright, trademark and other intellectual property issues, told the Associated Press. Once a name is trademarked, he said, it gives the holder additional remedies to recover profits and damages if someone uses the name inappropriately.

For the record, here’s what Palin told the Christian Broadcasting Network over the weekend regarding how the Obama administration has handled Egypt’s political upheaval:

“Nobody yet has explained to the American public what they know, and surely they know more than the rest of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak and I'm not real enthused about what it is that that’s being done on a national level and from DC in regards to understanding all the situation there in Egypt.”

Explaining further, she said: “And in these areas that are so volatile right now because obviously it’s not just Egypt but the other countries too where we are seeing uprisings, we know that now more than ever, we need strength and sound mind there in the White House.”

Surely that’s a depth of analysis worth trademarking.

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