Rough Trademark

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For a second year in a row, Dykes-on-Bikes, the famed group of lesbian motorcycle dynamos who lead the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, was refused property rights to their name.

Though they use their name as a self-empowering upending of the derogatory usage of dyke, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deems the term offensive, insulting, and scandalous. Jessie Roberts, a trademark administrator, told the SF Chonicle that the U.S. PTO is "looking out for the sensitivities of the general public more than that of a specific applicant." The article continues:

"I cannot imagine a more ironic twist of thinking than to judge this reclaimed badge of honor as insulting to the very community who has created its power," Joan Nestle, co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, wrote in a declaration supporting the Dykes on Bikes' trademark request. "Lesbians do not need to be protected from their own cultural creations, their own transformations of stigmas."

Libertarians may not always rise the flag for intellectual property rights and trademarks, but all can get a laugh out of the hypocritical prudishness of the US PTO—the office earlier approved a trademark for the television show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," which also involves a once-pejorative term reappropriated by gays—and its irrelevant, bureaucratic crusade to protect the public from what is already thoroughly propagated in popular culture.

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  1. Sweet! I’m going to go print up some NWA shirts to sell.

  2. Melanie Colburn,

    Their prudery used to be worse.

  3. So much for my idea of an all-black wilderness camping group called “Niggers with Chiggers.” What about a European ass-riding competition called “Honkies on Donkeys?”

  4. Jennifer,

    Lol! Do you know anyone who wants to join my Civil War-era East-Asian recreation group (a.k.a. “Japs in Chaps”?) Or my Slavic fishing group “Krauts with Trouts”?

  5. Support group for Semitic sufferers of depression: Jews with the Blues. Hispanic chisel-sculptors: Spics with Picks.

    I;m trying to think of a good insult for my own ethnic group, but there aren’t many good rhymes for “Polack,” let alone “Polish-Irish-German.”

  6. I may be a straight male (even worse, one of Northern European heritage) but I would pay good money for a dykes with bikes T-shirt.

    Some Fillipino friends of mine want to open a restaurant selling fried spuds. You got it: flips and chips.

    They’ll hang out with the black truckers?The jigs with rigs.

    And the gay car tuners?Fags who drag.

    After that, well go to the Chinese philosophy club? Chinks who think.

    Finally, a visit to the german food place owned by an Indian?Dots with brauts.

  7. The PTO is sadly behind the times in their rhetoric, but their decision – refusing to protect terminology that is offensive to some segment of the public – is perfectly in tune with lefty PC thinking.

    I wonder how many of the Dykes on Bikes are all in favor of restrictions on free speech in the form of hate speech laws and the like?

  8. I may be a straight male (even worse, one of Northern European heritage) but I would pay good money for a dykes with bikes T-shirt.

    Some Fillipino friends of mine want to open a restaurant selling fried spuds. You got it: flips and chips.

    They’ll hang out with the black truckers?The jigs with rigs.

    And the gay car tuners?Fags who drag.

    After that, well go to the Chinese philosophy club? Chinks who think.

    Finally, a visit to the german food place owned by an Indian?Dots with brauts.

  9. Jennifer,

    I thought Poles and Germans were all lumped conveniently together in the catch-all, “krauts”.

    Support group for Irish sufferers of Lyme disease: “Micks with Ticks”.

  10. Jennifer,

    I thought Poles and Germans were all lumped conveniently together in the catch-all, “krauts”.

    Support group for Irish sufferers of Lyme disease: “Micks with Ticks”.

  11. Those question marks should have been dashes.

  12. Are the feminists really still using the word “herstory?” I mean, outside of college? In real life? Wow! Some people have no concept of self-deprecation or self-aware irony.

  13. Stupid double post.

  14. So what’s the Dykes-on-Bikes official theme song — Born to be Wild, or Good Vibrations?

  15. Well, if Spike Lee can attempt an injuction against Spike TV, Could Dick Van Dyke feasibly have a case here?

  16. Sorry about the double posts.

    There’s also a Japanese underwear modeling club. Nips in slips.

  17. R.C. Dean,

    No, its in tune with PTO tradition dating back long before the phrase “P.C.” came about. Indeed, the Lantham Act (1947) (and probably its 1881, 1905 and 1920 predecessors) sec. 2(a) concerns itself specifically with “immoral” marks. If anything, its based on conservative P.C. (which are culture is slopping over with).

    My favorite case to fall afoul of the PTO (for its title alone) is In re Old Glory Condom Corp. (1993). 🙂

  18. Does the USPTO recognize the genre of adult films know as “Chics with Dicks?”

  19. Assuming that trademark registration is necessary, the office should not refuse any because they might be offensive, controversial, etc., etc. Let those who are offended organize a boycott, sue, etc.

    One wonders why copyright and trademark operate under such different rules. Compare “America: Fuck Yeah” and “Dykes on Bikes”. Both are “intellectual property” with commercial applications. One gets the support (one might say the subsidy) of the state and the other gets jack. Guess which item uses the more offensive term.

  20. What about my all Arab music production company Dune Coon Tunes?

    Or my Italian waffles, Dago Eggos?

    Or my club for wealthy Chinese ladies, Chinks in Minks?

  21. For Polish-Americans who joust at Renaissance Faires: Polacks with a Pole-Axe.
    But seriously, the other day I caught a TV show called “Ma’s Polish Auto Show”. I watched for over an hour, but all the cars were American.

  22. Guess which item uses the more offensive term.

    Clearly Dykes on Bikes.

    America: Fuck Yeah! has obviously patriotic themes. Last I checked, being Patriotic is expected, not offensive. On the other hand, America: Fuck No! or America: Fuck Off! is not only offensive but also a clear act of war.

  23. Smacky–
    I always thought “kraut” was exclusively German. Never heard it used to describe Slavs before, only Saxons.

  24. Sorry for the threadjack, but some of us regular posters from the Connecticut-New York-New Jersey area are talking about meeting somewhere in Manhattan on some weekend, to drink, talk about how much better the world would be if we ran it, and see how TOTALLY wrong we were when we imagined what the others looked like. I’ve got a few regulars signed up already.

    So drop me an e-mail if you’re interested, and after a couple of days, when I know who all’s going, we can work out the when and where.

  25. Damn, that sounds like a lot of fun…too bad I’m in Phoenix. My next vacation is to San Francisco…my sister, a dyke, totally knows the Dykes on Bikes and has ridden on the back of one of their bikes in the parade a few years back.

    Anyway, maybe some other time!

  26. Gosh, you guys forgot a number of groups:

    Those intrepid Iraqi journalists, Wogs with Blogs

    Woody Allen and Seinfeld-loving lesbians, Dykes on Kikes

    Women from Long Island with funny hats, Japs with Caps

    And last but not least, the Medeterranian Janitor’s union, Wops with Mops

    Don’t forget to tip your waitress…

  27. There’s always the gay equestrian club, Fags on Nags.
    Or the Chinese fur-lovers club, Chinks in Minks…
    The Jewish parenting association, Yids with Kids…
    The Belgian chess club, Dirty Belgian Bastards who play chess (obligitory Python reference)

  28. In all seriousness, though…

    I’m sure that, truth be told (and as Germany pointed out), the reason the USPTO found “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” acceptable and “Dykes on Bikes” not had much more to do with the fact that the applicant of the latter mark is:

    (APPLICANT) San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent CORPORATION CALIFORNIA 633 Castro Street San Francisco CALIFORNIA 94114

    while the registrants of the former are:

    (REGISTRANT) Scout Productions, Inc. CORPORATION MASSACHUSETTS 119 Braintree Street Boston MASSACHUSETTS 02134

    (REGISTRANT) Bravo Company Bravo Holding Corp., a Delaware corporation, Bravo II Holding Corp., a Delaware corporation, and NBC-Rainbow, Inc., a California corporation LIMITED PARTNERSHIP NEW YORK 2 Park Ave., 11th Floor New York NEW YORK 10016

    I can practically hear the justification: that a major network was airing a show with “queer” in the title (thus having legal grounds for the application) is prima facie evidence that the term is “mainstream” enough for registration.

    JMJ

    P.S. For those unaware, USPTO TESS may be searched here…

  29. smacky,

    “Krauts” are definitely Germans, not Poles. It comes from “Sauerkraut”, I think. Although Germany had split Poland with Russia at one time, I doubt people were calling German ethnic Poles Krauts.

  30. Just got back from vacation, and no one will ever read this, but …

    Speaking as someone who is entirely German on my dad’s side, and mixed Slavic (mostly Croatian and Bohemian) on my mom’s side, as far as I know Rhywun is 100% correct. Germans are “krauts” or “krautheads,” derived from “sauerkraut.” Poles are “Polacks.”

    I am unaware of any blanket slur term that covers all Slavs. However, “Bohunk,” referring to a person from east-central Europe, comes close.

  31. Which is why I’m starting a support group for bulemics from east-central Europe called “Bohunks Who Blow Chunks.”

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