The Trump Files: He Once Forced a Small Business to Pay Him Royalties for Using the Word “Trump”

Mother Jones Illustration; Shuttershock

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on June 27, 2016.

Donald Trump is notoriously protective of his brand, so when he learned in 1988 that a small Georgia-based company was selling business cards dubbed “Trump Cards,” he played a card of his own: He launched a legal war against the firm, Positive Concepts, Ltd., in a bid to get the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel its trademark registration.   

Trump’s lawyers claimed PCL deliberately chose the moniker in order “to benefit…from the worldwide fame, distinction and glamour of Donald J. Trump and his ‘TRUMP’ name.”

PCL’s lawyer, Kevin L. Ward, said at the time that the tycoon was trying to create a “trump” monopoly: “Donald Trump simply wants to own the word ‘trump,’ and anybody who wants anything to do with it will have to face Donald Trump. We can’t give up a word in the English language just because somebody has the power and money to do so.”

The battle between the business card maker and the real estate mogul eventually concluded in true Trumpian fashion—with a deal. In exchange for royalties and the rights to the trademark, Trump dropped his objection, licensed PCL to make the cards, and officially endorsed them, according to reports by the Associated Press.  

Ward, the attorney who represented PCL, told Mother Jones that both sides were happy with the result of the settlement. He nevertheless pointed out that, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “trump”—referring to a playing card of a suit that outranks the others in the deck—dates back to the 16th century, long before Donald Trump could stake his claim on it.

The former president of PCL, Edward Zito, did not respond to requests for comment.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate