Can I trademark my name and likeness? Can the President?

Lawrence Lessig has an interesting article on Wired at the moment. It seems that NBC won’t license a specific Meet the Press segment to a documentary writer because it portrays the President in an unflattering light. Very interesting, and not really a topic for this thread. It is my jumping-off point, however.

How about if I trademark my name and likeness and refuse to sell licenses to people who wish to denigrate me? That is, even if they aren’t technically guilty of libel/slander, I can still sue them for trademark dilution, and the best they could claim is fair use (which, these days, is a very anemic defense).

It seems tailor-made for any public official, in fact: If you use my name, likeness, or words in a piece I deem unflattering or embarassing, I will sue you and destroy your product. Is it plausible?

Or perhaps President Derleth will only give press conferences on DerlethCorp newsmedia outlets. Then I can claim copyright privilege.

Wouldn’t work. Trademarks only have meaning in a commercial context. Nothing prevents anyone from using, say, the name “Disney” if they were talking about the company, but if you set up “Disney’s Donuts,” you’d get a very nasty letter and a possible infringement suit. Same if you trademarked your image – you’d only have grounds if that image was being used to sell something (and a news broadcast would have a great deal of leeway under freedom of speech).

At most, you could insist that people use the trademark symbol when mentioning your name. However, I’d be surprised if even that stood up to a legal challenge.

Unlike the U.S. Copyright Office, the U.S. Office of Patents and Trademarks will not register a trademark for the sake of registering the trademark. The trademark owner must show actual commercial activity with the trademark.

In any case, the First Amendment trumps any trademark law.