In preparation for a launch of its mysterious not-a-party third-party presidential bid in the early months of 2011, Americans Elect has filed a trademark for the phrase “Americans Elect” as well as for a three-stars and two-bars logo design to be distributed on metal key chains.
The graphic trademark is nominally unique, if pretty similar to political logos we’ve seen before: red, white and blue with stars. The text trademark is, to be blunt, bloody useless and will be lost in a sea of news articles, letters to the editor, interviews and conversations that use the phrase “Americans Elect” in ways that don’t refer to the organization or its efforts to get its own presidential and vice presidential candidates elected in 2012. Pundits will discuss the aftermath of the next election, “when Americans elect a new president.” Essayists will consider “Why Americans Elect Awful Presidents.” Museums will continue to produce instructional packets for children explaining “How Americans Elect their President.”
I wouldn’t give Americans Elect’s predecessor Unity08 many congratulations for its strategic thinking, but it did one thing reasonably well, and that was in choosing its name. “Unity08” invoked positive feelings of warmth and togetherness, but more importantly it stood out and grabbed attention for its difference. You don’t ever ask your husband to run down to the corner store to “pick up some eggs and a package of Unity08.” More importantly, newspapers and television commentators never used the phrase “Unity08” before the advent of that organization, and whenever they did use the phrase in the last election cycle, it referred to the group’s efforts. In contrast, political commentators use the phrase “Americans Elect” in high frequencies every two years, and when they pick up the phrase during the presidential primaries they most often won’t be using it in the context of the mystery political corporation with that name. It won’t be impossible for Americans Elect to seize Americans’ political attention, but the name won’t help — regardless of how many different ways a corporation tries to trademark it.