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A man wants to trademark ‘Trump too small’ for T-shirts. Now the Supreme Court will hear the case.

by Sophia Chen
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Trump too small trademark case

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced its decision to consider a case where a man attempted to secure a trademark for the phrase “Trump too small,” which teases former President Donald Trump.

The Department of Justice backs President Joe Biden’s one-time and potential future adversary in urging the court to dismiss the attempt to trademark the provocative phrase “Trump too small” for use on T-shirts, a concept proposed by a man from California.

Set for deliberation in the fall, the case is one of two in the court’s forthcoming agenda involving Trump or his business interests. Officials from the government maintain that the phrase “Trump too small” is still permissible, but a trademark cannot be established as Trump has not provided consent for its usage. However, a federal appeals court counterargued that the refusal of trademark registration infringes on rights to free speech.

Over recent years, the Supreme Court has had its fair share of cases linked to Trump. These cases ranged from Trump’s allegations of fraud in the 2000 election, to his attempts to protect his tax records from congressional oversight and conceal other tax records from New York prosecutors.

Regardless of any possible fatigue from Trump-related lawsuits, the Supreme Court has shown no signs of slowing down. Just last month, they agreed to review another lawsuit tied to Trump, this time concerning a dispute over the former Trump International Hotel in Washington. The case was filed by Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee over the Trump administration’s refusal to share information about the Trump Organization’s lease of the hotel.

In an unexpected twist, the current case sees the Biden administration siding with Trump. The administration is backing the government officials who turned down Steve Elster’s trademark application for the phrase “Trump too small.”

The phrase in question dates back to a notable exchange during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a fellow GOP presidential contender. Rubio initiated the banter at a rally, noting that Trump often referred to him as “little Marco,” but that Trump — who claims to be 6-feet-3-inches tall — has relatively small hands. “Have you seen his hands? … And you know what they say about men with small hands,” Rubio remarked. “You can’t trust them.”

Trump retorted at a televised debate on March 3, 2016, saying, “Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands — if they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee you.”

Under federal law, a trademark application is to be denied if it includes a name, portrait, or signature “identifying a particular living individual” without their “written consent.” Elster, however, insists that the rejection of a political slogan criticizing Trump without Trump’s consent infringes the First Amendment’s Free Speech clause. Elster’s legal team argues that federal law “makes it virtually impossible to register a mark that expresses an opinion about a public figure.”

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