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Companies Try To Trademark 'Ok, Boomer' Expression


The expression OK, boomer is a way of dismissing the baby boomer generation and the way they do things. Some people find it funny; some don't. But either way, it's gone viral. So companies are doing what companies do - they're trying to make money off of it. NPR's Yuki Noguchi has the story.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Josh Gerben has an unusual pastime - he likes scrolling trademark applications.

JOSH GERBEN: Sort of a hobby of a trademark attorney - you tend to watch for interesting filings.

NOGUCHI: A few weeks ago, he saw an application from a clothing-maker trying to trademark OK, boomer. Then Gerben started seeing references to the phrase pop up in all corners of the Internet. Four more trademark applications followed, including another for apparel, plus one for stickers and decals. Then last weekend, he saw a filing from Fox Entertainment.

GERBEN: In the application, it said that it could be anything from a reality show to a game show.

NOGUCHI: He tweeted a screenshot of the application. That, too, became fresh grist for the meme mill. Gerben says it's not uncommon to see people trying to trademark things that go viral, but he found Fox's applications surprising.

GERBEN: It's relatively rare to see a large company move in and try to protect the meme as well with a trademark.

NOGUCHI: Fox declined comment. It's likely going to have some competition, including from at least one Hollywood producer. Gerben is skeptical any of this is going to work. He says it's highly unlikely the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will grant anyone the rights to OK, boomer.

GERBEN: Typically, a trademark has to be unique to a particular company in order to be registered. In this case, it just would not be.

NOGUCHI: The phrase's popularity, in other words, works against any application. Even if it were granted, he argues, the trademark would be virtually impossible to enforce. Gerben is 38 and identifies with Generation X. He hasn't found a way to work OK, boomer into conversation just yet.

GERBEN: No, but I might have to over Thanksgiving now.

NOGUCHI: In what context do you most see yourself using this?

GERBEN: When discussing politics with my parents.

NOGUCHI: Good luck with that.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi
Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.