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Seeking to Cash In on 'Shock and Awe'

Entrepreneurs want to use the phrase to sell products ranging from video games to salsa.

May 12, 2003|Susan Decker | Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — The next "shock and awe" campaign may be advertisements for hot sauce, pesticides, video games or even condoms.

The phrase that described bombing attacks on Baghdad is listed in 28 applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for use in marketing a variety of products. The first application, for fireworks, was filed March 20, the day U.S. bombs started raining on the Iraqi capital.

With fighting in Iraq all but finished, entrepreneurs are trying to cash in on names and phrases popularized during the war. Trademark applications include those for Operation Iraqi Freedom firearms, a Baghdad Bob bobblehead figure and key chains picturing Saddam Hussein on an ace of spades with a target on his face.

"Companies and individuals say, 'Oh, that's a neat name,' " said Rob McCutcheon, a patent and trademark lawyer with Davis Munck in Dallas. "People can see the value in some of these phrases."

So far, the most prominent trademark being used on war- related products is an old one -- the Hoyle joker owned by the U.S. Playing Card Co. The company licensed the trademark to closely held Great USA Flags, which is selling "officially licensed" cards showing 55 wanted Iraqis.

"Mortal Kombat" creator Midway Games Inc. is among the applicants seeking to use "shock and awe" on video games. Sony Corp.'s computer entertainment unit, maker of the PlayStation 2 video game console, also filed for use of the name but said it has dropped its application. Neither company returned calls seeking comment.

"It's such a simple phrase, but it's also direct," said Eric Karich, a patent and trademark lawyer. "That's a great quality in a trademark."

Karich filed an application to use "shock and awe" for more than 100 types of goods, including condoms. He said he's in talks to license the phrase, but he wouldn't elaborate. "We'll have to see if anyone thinks that's a good name," he said.

Salem, N.H.-based Dennco Inc. applied to use the "shock and awe" phrase for golf equipment, and an Irving, Texas, man wants the name for pesticides.

Applicants from Princeton Junction, N.J., and San Francisco have filed to use the phrase on salsas. Other products listed on trademark applications include magnets, footwear, calendars and energy drinks.

The number of registration applications for "shock and awe" exceeds the 24 filed for the phrase "Let's roll" after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

According to media reports, Todd Beamer used those words to rally fellow passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 to wrest control of the plane from hijackers before it crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. The only registration that's been granted for the phrase is to the Todd M. Beamer Foundation, a charity founded by his widow, Lisa.

There have been a dozen applications for all or parts of the name Osama bin Laden, including one, now abandoned, by the half brother of the suspected terrorist.

Yeslam Binladen had planned to introduce a line of "Bin Laden" clothing and jewelry before Sept. 11. None of the applications have been approved.

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