Businesses try to trademark phrase “I can’t breathe”

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - British retailer says any royalties would be used to help minority ethnic children in Manchester

June 10, 2020

June 10, 2020

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Businesses in the UK and the US have applied to trademark the phrases “I can’t breathe” and “Black lives matter” amid worldwide protests over the death in the US of George Floyd.

British businessman Georgios Demetriou told World Trademark Review (WTR) that he planned to seek royalties from other bodies that used the terms in the UK if he were successful with applications for both phrases in Britain.

He told the website that any money raised would not be for his personal benefit and he planned to use any funds earned to pay for the education of ethnic minority children in the English city of Manchester.

The phrase “I can’t breathe” has been used as a protest slogan since Mr Floyd died after repeatedly uttering the phrase while a US police officer knelt on his neck following his arrest.

Both applications were submitted to the UK trademark authorities on June 6 as thousands took to the streets around the world to protest against his death.

Mr Demetriou told WTR he had not sought permission for using the phrases from the family.

“Those words, 'I can't breathe' and 'Black lives matter', will appeal to a lot of people and they will pay heed, and we will use that to generate money which will go to people that deserve it,” he said.

The WTR said that at least six applications had been made in the US to trademark the phrase 'I can't breathe' and its variants for use on t-shirts and surgical masks.

US trademark expert Erik Pelton wrote in a tweet that the applications were reprehensible and likely to fail.

Updated: June 10, 2020 11:06 PM

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