Capitalizing on the deal of the century

November 05, 1997

WASHINGTON -- Designing a "Class of 2000" T-shirt for your local school? You might want to call a trademark lawyer: Someone already owns the rights.

Thousands of budding entrepreneurs are seeking registered trademarks for "Millennium" and "Year 2000" -- and every conceivable derivative -- for a range of products, reports the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It has awarded 117 trademarks that include the word "millennium," more than 1,500 containing "2000." Thousands more are pending.

Move your furniture with "Moving into the Millennium." Have a beer on Miller Brewing Co., which wants to be "Official Sponsor of the Millennium." Playboy feels it should be "Official Magazine of the Millennium."

A New York company already owns the right to use "Year 2000" for a line of clothing and novelties, and a California man has dibs on using "Class of 2000" on T-shirts, sweat shirts, hats and shorts.

Trademark law is pretty simple: As long as the phrase pertains to a specific product and there is no existing trademark for that product or related products, the government usually awards the registration. You don't even have to spell correctly to apply: Nearly 90 people or companies have applied for "millenium" with only one "n."

A registered trademark doesn't guarantee protection, though. The trademark office is not an enforcement agency, so each trademark owner is responsible for fending off infringers.

So legal battles could stretch, theoretically, into the Millennium.

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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