New York couple tries to trademark 'Occupy Wall St.'

Story highlights

  • Robert Maresca wants to use the slogan to sell clothes, stickers and accessories
  • An Occupy Wall Street spokesman says effort misses the point of the movement
  • Maresca says he hopes to transfer trademark ownership to Occupy Wall Street members
  • An intellectual property lawyer estimates the application will be reviewed in two to three months
A Long Island couple wants to trademark the slogan "Occupy Wall St." with the intent to sell sweatshirts, T-shirts, bumper stickers and hobo bags, among other merchandise.
"I'm no marketing genius, but when you got something that's across 50 states, it's a brand now," said 44-year-old Robert Maresca of West Islip, New York.
Maresca's wife, Diane, filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on October 18 and paid a fee of $975.
The move has some Occupy Wall Street supporters perplexed.
"The goal of OWS is not to become a profitable business," said Tyler Combelic, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman. "Anything that misconstrues it as such, such as trademarking for the sake of profiting, is missing the point of protest."
But Robert Maresca sees things differently.
"I'm the best person they could imagine buying the slogan, because no one has their interest more than myself," he said. "This is an important slogan; somebody else might have gotten a hold of it."
A former union iron worker, Maresca is now a stay-at-home father of three after suffering a stroke and sustaining a work injury nine years ago. He said he became a supporter of Occupy Wall Street once the union began backing the cause.
"I'm also really against corporate money distorting elections," he said.
Maresca, who calls himself a "fiscally conservative but socially liberal" political independent, said his idea stemmed from creating shirts drawn with markers down on Wall Street. But it was his wife -- whom he describes as apolitical -- who filed the application because Maresca does not have a credit card.
But Combelic said Maresca's attempt runs counter to the Occupy Wall Street mission.
"I think they are taking what is meant to represent 99% of America and instead making it represent an individual," he said.
Steve Mancinelli, an intellectual property lawyer in New York, said legally, "you don't get to own words because you think them up."
He said that the Marescas' "intent of use" application would be approved if they have a "bona fide intention" to produce items for commerce. It would take two to three months until the application is reviewed, at which point a separate "use" application will need to be submitted, Mancinelli said.
Trademark privileges would give the Marescas' ownership of "Occupy Wall St." the brand, as well as the use of such text on merchandise labels.
Mancinelli said he, too, was confused that "someone from the OWS gang, which has demonstrated anti-capitalist ideals, would engage in a fundamental capitalist activity, like trademarking."
When asked where proceeds would go, Robert Maresca said, "it's my intent to have them (Occupy Wall Street supporters) get the maximum benefit possible after any expenses."
While Maresca said it was too soon to make any promises, "it is my hope to transfer ownership of the trademark to OWS if it's feasible."
He said he would even sell the trademark to Occupy Wall Street members, if they wanted it, for just $1 -- after they repaid his expenses.
Combelic said he doesn't think fellow Occupy Wall Street protesters will be too eager to don trademarked "Occupy" clothing.
"We already make T-shirts down there for free, screen-printing on site," he said. "We think that organic individual marketing -- making our own buttons or T-shirts -- is more valuable."