When Eric Garner of New York died in July after being placed in a chokehold by police, he never could have imagined that his last words would end up being a marketed phrase.
I Can't Breathe.
After the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death was not acquitted, many people took up the phrase as a rallying cry, a banner to wave as protest against what they perceive to be unjustified and unaccounted-for police brutality, especially against black men in America.
The phrase has been printed on banners, t-shirts, protest signs, and cried aloud at protest marches.
And now at least one woman is looking to funnel the money from merchandise with that phrase to herself. Catherine Crump of Waukegan, Illinois filed an application on December 13 for trademark of the phrase "I Can't Breathe" for "clothing, namely hoodies, T-shirts for men, women, boys, girls and infants."
Crump says she has been using the phrase on commercial items since August. she included the required photos to show that she has used the phrase, and she paid the required filing fee of $325.
But some law professionals say she may have more of a battle securing the phrase than simply filing an application for trademark.
"If she's not the first person to make these t-shirts, she's going to be out of luck," University of Chicago law professor Jonathan Masur said.
If Crump can prove that, then show may be able to get a trademark giving her exclusive rights to license the use of the phrase on clothing items. This means that anyone else who wants to print shorts with the phrase will have to pay a licensing fee to Crump to be able to do so.
But the trademark rights stop at clothing. Cynthia Ho, a law professor at Loyola University in Chicago, explains that no one can grab a phrase and completely rule its use in public. "You don't get absolute monopoly rights over the words you trademark," Ho said, "because that would violate the basic premise of free speech."
More recently, after two New York police officers were assassinated in what appears to be retaliation for the Garner killing and others, rapper The Game used the phrase in a way that offended many.
The Game's post was quickly denounced by many.
— HipHopShortStop⚾️ (@PrincessDanaoX) December 21, 2014
— Corey Carmello (@CoreyCarmello) December 21, 2014
But The Game responded by saying he was misunderstood.
"... you simple minded fucks skipped right over the real message to pull whatever negativity you could from my post..."
The comment in my last post was a DIRECT RESPONSE to the picture above: I didn't say it was cool that 2 cops were murdered senselessly while sitting in their car. These weren't the cop(s) that killed ERIC GARNER so it wasn't necessary they die in that manner the same as it wasn't AT ALL necessary ERIC GARNER die in the way he did. My comment also suggested that #AllLivesMatter & #ShitNeedsToChangeNow but you simple minded fucks skipped right over the real message to pull whatever negativity you could from my post... As expected. One thing about me is, I'm ME. I'm not running from my views or opinions & I'm standing firm on anything I say.. So while all of you trying to find the HATE in my post, there is NONE. What their is.... is an opinion of a man that believes the deaths of innocent people are never OKAY. Never has been !!! It just so happens, that I'm BLACK. It just so happens I grew up as a minority & have been a victim of racial profiling & police harassment in my youth the same as many so I can relate to the continuous STRUGGLE to change the way the GOVERNMENT deals with it's own employees when they're supposed to be highly trained professionals who loosely abuse the right to them wearing the badge given to them. "PROTECT & SERVE" does not mean "CHOKE & KILL" an innocent un-armed man.... Retaliating for Eric Garner's murder the way the MEDIA portrays it happened wasn't the answer either but it happened.... SO WHAT NOW... Do police KILL more civilians ??? Or do civilians KILL more police ??? Y'all can't see what's happening to our country ? Or all YALL still too focused on an iPhone app to get off of it to take a REAL LOOK AROUND ??? & you ask me, do I like police: NO !!! Do I hate police: NO !!! Have I experienced more police abusing their authority than not: YES !!! So that's why "I" say FUCK THE POLICE !!! That's "MY OPINION".... Does that mean I think it's dope that 2 innocent cops were murdered: NOPE. But does it change my view on crooked police: NOPE !!! So... You can hate me, not like me, say FUCK GAME or UNFOLLOW or never support my MUSIC again because I have an opinion... SO WHAT, I DO NOT GIVE A FUCK !!! [To Be Continued..]