Trademarks And Social Media Movements: #BlackGirlMagic

By Corinne Coleman, Guest Blogger

A few months ago, a woman by the name of Nadia Chamberlain decided to revamp her Instagram by deleting every post from her profile while continuing to maintain her following. Soon after, she renamed her page to @sellflove_ and used the community following she built to establish and promote her online retail business.  

While Chamberlain may not be a massive social media influencer and relatively unknown to mainstream urban culture, she made a smart business move that many black business startups have not widely been aware of.  What’s essential about her story is that before deciding to launch her SellfLove™ website and transforming her personal Instagram account to a business profile, she applied to register for a federal trademark. Chamberlain was savvy enough to know and understand the importance of protecting her business and her brand before she ever even made a dime from #sellflove.  

Image via Pxhere

To give you an idea of the importance of federal trademark protection, let’s explore the controversy behind #BlackGirlMagic. In 2013, via Twitter, CaShawn Thompson coined the term initially as #BlackGirlsAreMagic and used it as a social movement to spark a discussion around black women and girls. At the time, Thompson had no idea how far and fast the phrase would catch on.

Eventually, Thompson realized its potential and started to sell t-shirts with the words “Black Girls are Magic” and had notable celebrities wearing them. This is a perfect example of learning how to monetize from your own ideas or concepts. But what Thompson failed to do was register “Black Girl Magic” as a trademark. Doing so would’ve allowed her to legally own what she had created; instead, she lost that right and her brand along with it.

In August 2014, Beverly A. Bond, the founder of Black Girls Rock!, registered her application for a trademark of “Black Girl Magic” as the first use in commerce claim, but later abandoned her application in October 2016. Previously, in February 2016, she filed an application to trademark “Black Girl Magic” with the intent to use the term as a service mark concerning creating and developing concepts for television.

The following month, Essence Magazine applied for the use of “Essence Black Girl Magic” with the intent to use the term as a service mark for educational and entertainment purposes. Essence challenged Bond’s claim to “Black Girl Magic” citing that she was not to have a legitimate reason to use the term, nor should she be able to trademark the catchphrase of a social movement.

CaShawn Thompson. Photograph: Melanie Magdalen on Unsplash

What made this Essence vs. Bond legal dispute unfortunate was that the originator of “Black Girl Magic, Thompson, held no claim to the famous phrase she created, something that she gave life to and watch grow viral, legally, was not hers. She was never mentioned nor credited from either party in the legal battle, and she was never even made aware of the controversy during its proceedings.

In the end, Bond ended up with the service mark rights to Black Girl Magic, Essence’s application was dead in the United State Patent and Trademark system, and Thompson, who has since trademarked “Black Girls Are… Magic” has learned a valuable lesson about brand protection.

To register for a federal trademark application visit www.uspto.gov and be sure to carefully read through the instructions of the application process and contact a trademark attorney for further questions. The cost to file a trademark application is nominal compared to what it would cost in a legal battle with another party.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT legal advice and your reading or engaging with this blog does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult our office if you require an attorney or need further legal assistance. Enjoy reading!


Latest News