…or close enough.
According to this article, actor and comedian Damon Wayans has been engaged with a battle at the USPTO to register the mark Nigga for a line of clothing and for retail store services.
According to Wayans’s applications, Wayans wants to dress customers in 14 kinds of Nigga attire from tops to bottoms, and use the controversial mark on “clothing, books, music and general merchandise,” as well as movies, TV and the internet. However, the USPTO has at least twice rejected Wayan’s application on the grounds that the mark is Â“immoral or scandalousÂ”.
According to the Examining Attorney, Â“While debate exists about in-group uses of the term, ‘nigga’ is almost universally understood to be derogatory.Â”
Experts differ on Wayans’ chances of success. Some believe that this is akin to the recent registration of Dykes on Bikes.
The effort to commercialize “nigga” drew a sharp response from a black school official who participated in a forum about the word earlier this month at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
“I don’t care for it in any form,” said Dr. Lonnie Williams, associate vice chancellor for student affairs. “Either way you pronounce it, spell it, anything associated with it — I find it offensive.”
If Wayans succeeds in persuading the Trademark Office to permit the mark, he may have to deal with Keon Rhodan, a 29-year-old entrepreneur in Charleston, South Carolina, who has been using “Nigga” on a line of T-shirts, hoodies and other attire for six years in a part-time, trunk-of-his-car business.
Rhodan attempted to register “Nigga’Clothing” as a trademark in 2001 and was denied by the Trademark Office.
“They said it was disparaging,” he said.
Rhodan, who is black, said that he’s sold around 2,000 of the shirts at events. When he began selling the shirts, emblazoned with the term “Nigga,” he thought he would take criticism, especially from older people.
“I was in the mall with one of the shirts on, and an old lady said, ‘Where did you get that shirt from?’” he said, expecting the worst. “She followed me to the car and bought five shirts for her grandchildren.”
Rhodan believes that affectionate use of the term within the black community should make it an acceptable mark, but the Trademark Office has thus far has not been persuaded by that argument.