The Daily Mail is reporting that Donald Trump has asserted trademark rights in the phrase “Make America Great Again” against fellow Republican Ted Cruz. According to the article, Cruz has agreed to not use the phrase. Trump told the Daily Mail that slogan “is my whole theme.” But here’s the thing: Trump does not have a registered trademark for the phrase.
You do not have to be using a trademark to apply for registration. The USPTO allows you to file an “intent-to-use” application. The application is essentailly reviewed like any other application. Once the application is allowed, however, you have six months to file a “statement of use” showing that you are indeed using the trademark. You can file multiple extensions to submit your statement of use for a fee. As Trump knows, everything has a price.
Trump filed an intent-to-use application for the phrase in November of 2012. He has since filed several extensions to submit his statement of use, the latest being in February 2015. So, Trump currently does not have a federal trademark registration and does not have the legal right to tell anyone not to use the slogan unless he is actually using it as a trademark. Of course, nothing is stopping him from intimidating Ted Cruz or any other candidate from using the slogan.