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Sybrina Fulton seeks to trademark Trayvon rallying cries

By Athena Jones and Eric Marrapodi, CNN
March 29, 2012 -- Updated 0329 GMT (1129 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Trayvon Martin's mom seeks to trademark "I am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon"
  • Family's lawyers say trademarks are to keep unscrupulous from profiting on Martin's name
  • Family also would like to start a foundation in son's name, lawyer says

Editor's note: The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has sparked a national dialogue on race; now CNN wants to hear from you. At 8 p.m. ET Thursday at CNN studios in New York, Soledad O'Brien is hosting a town hall meeting called "Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America." The special will air at 8 p.m. ET Friday on CNN.

(CNN) -- As they pressed their case in Washington to lawmakers and the national media, Trayvon Martin's parents also explained they are not trying to make money off their slain son's name.

Last week, Travyon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, filed two applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the phrases "I am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon."

Both phrases have become a rallying cry for supporters of the 17-year-old who was shot and killed February 26 in Sanford, Florida, by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, who has said he was acting in self-defense.

Martin's parents and supporters dispute Zimmerman's claim and want him arrested.

What the witnesses are saying

Martin: My son defended himself

"We just appreciate the support that we've been receiving," Fulton told reporters Wednesday. "We're thinking about next steps and the plans we need to take right now to try to get some justice for our son."

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the family, addressed the trademark issue in a news conference on Capitol Hill late Tuesday after appearing with Martin's parents at a forum on racial profiling and hate crimes.

"We keep getting called about trademarks and this kind of thing," Crump said. "There are so many people out there doing things with Trayvon's name and some inappropriate people, so without that trademark they did not have the right to tell them to cease and desist."

Crump noted the attorneys who filed the trademark application volunteered to do so for the family.

Fulton's trademark applications covered digital media, CDs and DVDs featuring Trayvon Martin.

Kimra Major-Morris, another lawyer for the family who filed the trademark applications, said the family was worried others could use the phrases to exploit the Florida teen's death. One example she gave was someone falsely claiming to be raising funds for the family.

"There are going to be many, and we've seen them already, who don't have the family's best interest at heart," Major-Morris said. "The purpose of the trademark filings is to protect against exploitation and to keep the heat on an arrest and that is really our goal and the family is not interested in a profit."

Major-Morris said Martin's family supported efforts such as the public service announcement released this week by Grammy-winning singer Chaka Khan and is not trying to prevent people from using the phrases on T-shirts or hoodies, items they believe are helpful to their cause.

Major-Morris said Martin's family planned to start a foundation in his name and it was important to protect these phrases for the foundation's eventual use.

The goal of the foundation, she said, will be to help other families who are going through similar situations.

Two days after Fulton's applications were filed, Los Angeles musician Marcus Singletary applied for a trademark for "Justice for Trayvon" hooded sweatshirts.

Evolution of the hoodie

"In my opinion, Trayvon's parents were correct when they cited the lack of civility by some popular media figures who have chosen to find significance in dissecting a teenager's wardrobe as a somehow 'factual' explanation for the child's untimely (and, apparently, permissible) death by firearm," Singletary wrote to CNN in an e-mail. "The phrase summarizes the goals that we progressive-minded Americans have defined for ourselves, regarding the incident in question and its potential aftermath."

Singletary also said he would "love to provide assistance to the family" assuming the product is successful.

Applying for trademarks will not provide immediate legal protection for the family, according to trademark lawyers, because the applications usually take a year or more to process.

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