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All Fired Up Over a Patent

March 29, 2004

So Donald Trump wants to patent the expression "You're fired." Further proof, if necessary, of the keen promotional skills contained within the engaging, enraging mind of that New York real estate developer. Trump, the owner of Trump Tower and Trump casinos, isn't famed for understatement or modesty. Nor is the Don King of real estate known for subtlety or hair-care products. Maybe he's serious about the trademark so he can sell "You're Fired!" T-shirts and gambling machines; of course, not having such a patent wouldn't stop him either.

Maybe, just maybe (we're only suggesting here) the patent filing and word of it happening to slip out somehow late one recent week had something to do with "you're fired" being the unregistered trademark phrase of Trump's popular Thursday NBC television show, whose name escapes us at the moment. Trump couldn't buy -- well, maybe he could -- the publicity generated by such a dubious patent filing. Still, any future legal proceedings could make super photo ops, with the mugging mogul firing his opponents for the cameras. More vicarious fun for viewers.

Anyway, such delightful pieces of candy in otherwise dreary news days should usefully remind consumers that even the news can seem like entertainment now, and almost everything said these days has to do with marketing something -- books, movies, candidacies, causes. In Trump's case, a reality TV show, whose name still escapes us.

Does anyone out of eighth grade seriously think that President Bush and his accompanying army of journalists recently invaded a Kentucky Army base by accident, or that Sen. John Kerry just happened to go snowboarding with his press retinue the same day and photographers were simply lucky to catch him heading downhill, smiling, with the sun in his face?

Images and phrases touch contemporary buttons at times. There have been many others. Remember John Kennedy in his sailboat or Michael Dukakis driving that tank? "To the moon, Alice," an angry Jackie Gleason would tell his TV wife. "Sock it to me" and "Here come da judge" leaped out of "Laugh-In" into everyday conversation. As, later, did "Let's roll" and the numbingly ubiquitous "shock and awe" from a year ago. It was no gamble to predict that a pioneer of patent patent publicity ploys would be what's-his-name on that what's-it-called NBC show.

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