JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi man has filed a trademark for a version of a racial slur — the N-word.
Curtis Bordenave, who is black, filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for commercial use of a variation of the N-word that ends in “a”.
Bordenave's application comes on the heels of a June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a federal law that prohibited trademarks of disparaging words and symbols.
"We plan on dictating the future of how we define this word," Bordenave said. "A young, black businessman from Mississippi has acquired the rights to the word. I think that’s a great ending to that story."
Bordenave works as a consultant helping businesses brand themselves. He also gives seminars at hair shows across the country, educating stylists on brand recognition and intellectual property rights.
"We try to educate the small companies so they're not forced out of business by some big company," he said.
Bordenave attempted to trademark a similar word in 2008, but the application was denied.
Now, with the Supreme Court's ruling, he's trying to start the business up again. Bordenave has filed two trademark applications for the word, each encompassing a broad range of product possibilities, he said.
To date, there are six "live" trademark applications for a version of the N-word that ends in “a”. One application was filed by Snowflake Enterprises LLC, a company registered out of Delaware.
Steven Maynard is the man behind Snowflake Enterprises and, in addition to filing a trademark for a version of the N-word, has also filed a trademark for the swastika.
Maynard told Reuters he wanted to trademark the swastika to "turn hate into hope."
"If you suppress it, you give it power," Maynard said.
Regarding the N-word, Reuters reported Maynard plans to put the word on clothing, hard liquor and beer. He said he intends to turn the slur into a brand.
Bordenave's applications includes potential goods and services, including but not limited to clothing, games, accessories, fragrances, charitable fundraising, humor and comedic performances, television show production, bumper stickers, campaign buttons and mobile apps.
"Because the word is such a well-known word without a brand, without a logo, it actually has the ability to become a famous mark almost instantly," he said. "Our message is bigger than our brand. Our message is, 'Every shade, every gender unite.'
"We are all many shades, and it has nothing to do with race. It has nothing to do with whether you're black or white or your ethnicity. This word has affected people because of your skin color ... we want individuals to unite and support our products for the power to control the censorship of this word in commerce."
Bordenave said he already has T-shirts for sale with the word in the tag.
Michael Williams, a registered patent attorney, said trademark applications are common.
"People file trademarks for pretty much anything," Williams said. "It's a relative simple process."
Williams said two people may be able to obtain a trademark for the same thing.
"The thing is, while you may see a large number of people trademarking offensive language, in my opinion, I think it's going to be tougher to have trademarks granted. There are certain words that are generic and impossible to obtain a trademark for.
"My guess is, absent of it being something like a group name or product that you’re selling, it is going to be very difficult for someone to go and trademark that particular slur, generally speaking."
Bordenave said he feels trademarking the word is something "meant for me to do."
"I think that we’re taking it and making it good. I think that we can make it positive. I think, for that word, for some reason, people believe you can’t change the meaning of it, you can’t redefine it. To keep it locked away gives it power to the individuals who utter it for negative use," he said. "But when we define the word clearly, and we give it a powerful strong meaning, then now when you put it on the shirt, we want people to think about the message."
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