Two American lawyers have applied for trademarks that would cover some uses of the written phrase "From the River to the Sea," which has proven highly controversial and has led some experts to worry that it could spur further use.
"I would be amazed if they get this mark, irrespective of who they are or why they want it," Fred Tecce, an intellectual property attorney, told FOX Business.
One trademark, filed by Joel Ackerman of New Jersey, seeks to cover the entire chant "From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free," while the second trademark from Oron Rosenkrantz of Pennsylvania seeks only to cover the first part of the phrase.
The phrase has caused significant controversy as the most popular slogan chanted during protests in the wake of Israel’s response to the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7. Many critics, including the Anti-Defamation League, say the slogan can be interpreted as a call for the elimination of Israel; the protesters and supporters of the Palestinian people, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., claim that it is not violent.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure Tlaib over both her repeated use and defense of the phrase.
Elon Musk, the CEO of social media platform X, wrote that users who posted that the use of the phrase and calls for "decolonization" of Israel are euphemisms that "necessarily imply genocide" and will be treated as violations of the platform’s terms of service, resulting in account suspension.
The two trademark applications are on behalf of limited liability companies that could then file complaints against breaches of use.
Tecce noted that no trademark has been issued or assigned, and the process of fully obtaining the trademark includes "a number of significant barriers."
"It takes months (at the very least) to get a mark registered," Tecce wrote in an email. "Even if the trademark office examining attorney (the person responsible for seeing if you can be awarded a mark) decides you’re entitled to the mark, it gets published for what is called ‘opposition’."
The opposition period allows for anyone to contest the registration of the mark, meaning it’s possible that neither man will end up with ownership.
Tecce doubted that either man would prove successful, primarily because "trademarks indicate a common source."
"Here, no consumer is ever going to associate this phrase with these applicants . . . the only way to enforce the mark is through litigation – VERY EXPENSIVE litigation," he stressed.
If they obtain the trademark, either man might become able to use it against protesters, because "a lot of the time, trademark law usurps first amendment law, mostly because trademark ‘speech’ is ‘commercial speech’," which Tecce called "the lowest ‘form’ of free speech."
Ultimately, he argued that a call to violence "will not, and should not, be the basis for a U.S. registered trademark."
Another intellectual property expert told The Jerusalem Post that because the process to actually obtain the trademark takes almost a year to complete, the value of the trademark could fade by the time the applicants would take possession of it.
Instead, the expert suggested that the application’s true purpose was to generate publicity. The fact that the two men who applied for control of the slogan are Jewish could also provide some fodder for the anti-Israel contingent, the expert warned.
Ackerman did not respond to a FOX Business request for comment by time of publication.