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Why Fox's attempt to trademark 'OK Boomer' could backfire

Zack Guzman
·Senior Writer

“OK Boomer” may have risen to fame as the famously flippant Gen-Z retort for dismissing outdated viewpoints held by Baby Boomers, but now the phrase might also be famous for being at the center of a trademark battle.

The phrase, which rose to national prominence after being labeled as the “end of friendly generational relations” by New York Times writer Taylor Lorenz, was submitted for trademark protection by media giant Fox, according to a recent U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing.

The filing suggests Fox is looking to trademark “OK Boomer” as the title of a yet-to-be released television show, namely, “an on-going television series featuring reality competition, comedy, and game shows.”

However, as trademark attorney David Leichtman explains to Yahoo Finance, Fox could face an uphill battle in winning the right to prevent others from using “OK Boomer” as well.

“They have a couple of issues — first is it’s a very ubiquitous phrase,” Leichtman told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM, adding that others have also moved to apply to trademark the phrase within the last week for use in clothing and other media.

Interestingly, another trademark filing, specifically for “OK, Boomer!” came just two days after the filing from Fox that also seeks to similarly use the phrase as the title of an entertainment program “in the nature of plays, concerts, lectures in the field of generational differences by an individual” that may also be broadcast for television. That application was filed by three-time Emmy nominee and television producer Bill Grundfest, who told Yahoo Finance his show was already in use of the title, with plans to debut the show at his famed New York comedy club The Comedy Cellar.

“That’s probably more problematic,” Leichtman said, noting that it’s a trademark application for something already in use within the same category.

‘Boomer Sooner’

But then there’s the question of trademarking anything including the term “boomer” — something Leichtman says could be more problematic in its own right, given the intensity the University of Oklahoma defends its trademark over “Boomer Sooner.”

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 11: A record setting crowd exchanging BOOMER and SOONER chants across the field  during a college football game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs on November 11, 2017, at Memorial Stadium in Norman, OK.  (Photo by David Stacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Boomer Sooner chants are a normal occurrence at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by David Stacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“For a long time the University of Oklahoma has had the nickname ‘Boomer,’ and they own the trademark in ‘Boomer Sooner’ as well as ‘Boomer OU’ and of course ‘OK’ is the acronym for the state of Oklahoma, so I think that may trump everybody at the end of the day because of course they’ve been using that since 1950,” Leichtman said.

As if those quandaries didn’t present enough of a collective challenge to Fox’s trademark application, there’s also the chain of Boomers! theme parks that could also take issue with it.

“They have about 12 or 13 of them around the country and one of the things that they have is they have that trademark for video games and that’s part of Fox’s application as well, so again, I think they’re gonna have some challenges getting protection for it. Right now it just seems to be an idea that they have,” he added.

Whether or not the examining attorney for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sees things the same way will remain to be seen as the application is reviewed. But just as Kim Kardashian learned with her abandoned attempt to trademark “Kimono” and NBA star LeBron James learned with his failed attempt to trademark “Taco Tuesday” earlier this year, there are no guarantees in the trademark game — no matter how big of a name you might be.

Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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