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Viral expressions and catchphrases come and go at a rapid pace these days – seemingly catching the attention of the entire country at once.

Who wouldn’t want to capitalize on that sort of popularity? Turns out, plenty of people do.

Take, for example, the quick, recent rise of the phrase “OK, Boomer.”

Whether you find it hilariously concise or disrespectfully dismissive, there is no denying that the phrase appeared everywhere in the past few months.

And, in the wake of that spotlight, at least eight different applications were filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the phrase.

The applications’ focus range from card and board games, to clothing, to a reality TV show.

Proving, at the very least, that there is no limit to creative ways to capitalize on a viral sensation.

So, when can you trademark an expression or catchphrase?

Typically, to register a trademark, it needs to be unique and identified closely with the source of a certain product or service.

Popularity, then, can actually work against an application.

Trademarks, by their nature, are supposed to be distinctively associated with a single company or individual as a source of certain goods or services.

If an expression is ubiquitous, an applicant will have difficulty demonstrating the mark is closely associated with it.

While not every viral sensation has long term staying power, there may be benefits to using popular expressions.

Even if you cannot legally register an expression as a trademark, that does not mean you cannot use it to promote your products, so long as it does not violate anyone else’s rights.

If you have any questions about how you can use trademarks in your business, contact the attorneys at FOS.