So Much Crazy, It’s Crazy

How much ridiculousness gets filed at the U.S. Trademark Office?

More than you can fathom. Here’s the hilariously crazy stuff I found just by looking at applications to register NIKE.

Luhua Zhao[1] tried to register NIKE for this bizarre combination of goods:

Agricultural machinery; Aquarium pumps; Cheese making machines[2] Clothes washing machines; Cutting machines; can openers; drills; generators; glue guns; Electric hammers; hand-held drills; Electric screwdrivers; vacuum cleaners.

NIKE vacuum cleaner

In support of his application, he literally wrote “Nike” on a piece of paper and taped it to a vacuum cleaner.

NIKE vacuum cleaner copy.png

Rodney Hamilton submitted two applications to register WWW.NIKE.COM and NIKE.COM for marketing services. Maybe Doug Lehocky got his idea to throw away $50,000 in trademark office fees from Mr. Hamilton, because the specimens are almost as convincing as what Mr. Lehocky used. Check out these totally legit business cards:

Online marketing services copy.pngScreen Shot 2018-06-15 at 12.51.57 PM.png

When faced with failure, Nike Securities, L.P. believes in doubling down. Here’s the timeline for their clever strategy for beating Nike, Inc. in the trademark game:

  • 1991. Nike Securities applies to register NIKE for financial services.
  • 1992. Nike, Inc. opposes the application.
  • 1996. While the opposition to their first application is still going on, Nike Securities files three more applications to register a logo with NIKE SECURITIES L.P.[3]
  • 1998. Still unbowed, Nike Securities then filed an application to register NY-KEE.

Not content to rest on the mere foolishness of trying to register NIKE, Mr. Zhao, Mr. Hamilton, and Nike Securities set a new low for their innovative specimens, whacked-out goods descriptions, and weird strategies.




[1] Eight years earlier, the same dude also tried to register IHOP for “jacket, pants, sweaters, suit, hat, cap, shirt, T-shirt, casual wears, socks, sport shoes, hiking shoes.”

[2] What the hell is a cheese-making machine?

[3] All three are for identical logos but each is for a slightly different type of financial services. Why waste $300 when you can just as easily waste $900?

Duct Tape

Because I was first introduced to duct tape while sealing ducts in the attic of my childhood home, I never misheard the name of this do-it-all wonder as “duck tape” the way many people do.[1]

Even so, I was surprised to learn that DUCK was a registered trademark for duct tape.

Surtech Brands, LLC owns these live registrations:[2]

  • DUCK BRAND with and without design for duct tape.
  • DUCK with and without design for duct tape and related goods.

I don’t understood how this stands up as a trademark.

When I say “duct tape” it sounds exactly like “duck tape” unless I’m obsessive about creating two alveolar consonants with a slight pause between them: Making the “t” sound twice to create a break between the words.

The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure says[3] that a “slight misspelling of a word will not turn a . . . generic word into” a trademark:

  • PERSON2PERSON PAYMENT is generic for direct electronic funds transfers
  • URBANHOUZING is the equivalent of URBAN HOUSING
  • MINERAL LYX is generic for mineral licks for feeding livestock

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 2.21.01 PM.png

The only argument I could make is that the marks don’t include the word TAPE, and DUCK, standing alone, might be sufficiently distinguishable from DUCT.

If that’s the argument Surtech’s depending on, it’s not that strong and someone might want to tell Surtech’s webmaster.



Many thanks to Max F. for suggesting this topic and for introducing me to KAPTON® tape, which is the duct tape of aerospace engineers.

Thanks also to Liz B. for help with the phonetic terms.




[1] There’s actually no evidence that soldiers in WWII started using “duck tape” to refer a waterproof tape used to seal ammunition boxes. There was a product called “duck tape” well before WWII that was just non-adhesive strips of cotton duck, which is a light canvas fabric.

[2] The use of DUCK as a trademark for duct tape starts with Manco Tape, Inc., winds its way through a bunch of companies with “Henkel” in its name and finally ends up with Surtech Brands. Early registrations containing DUCK were transferred through some or all of these companies.

[3] A slight misspelling of a word will not turn a descriptive or generic word into a non-descriptive mark. See In re Calphalon Corp., 122 USPQ2d 1153, 1164 (TTAB 2017) (holding SHARPIN, the phonetic equivalent of “sharpen,” merely descriptive of knife blocks with built-in sharpeners); In re ING Direct Bancorp, 100 USPQ2d 1681, 1690 (TTAB 2011) (holding PERSON2PERSON PAYMENT generic for direct electronic funds transfers including electronic payment services between individuals); In re Carlson, 91 USPQ2d 1198, 1203 (TTAB 2009) (holding URBANHOUZING, in standard character form, would be perceived by consumers as the equivalent of the descriptive term URBAN HOUSING, rather than as including the separate word ZING); In re Ginc UK Ltd., 90 USPQ2d 1472, 1475 (TTAB 2007) (“The generic meaning of “togs” not overcome by the misspelling of the term as TOGGS. . .”); In re Hubbard Milling Co., 6 USPQ2d 1239 (TTAB 1987) (holding MINERAL-LYX generic for mineral licks for feeding livestock); C-Thru Ruler Co. v. Needleman, 190 USPQ 93 (E.D. Pa. 1976) (holding C-THRU to be the equivalent of “see-through” and, therefore, merely descriptive of transparent rulers and drafting aids). Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure Section 1209.03(j) Phonetic Equivalent.