Street Artist Wants Apple To Stop Using “Powerful” Phrase

by T+B Blog Team on May 14, 2014

A New York City street artist is claiming rights to the “You’re more powerful than you think” phrase recently used in Apple’s “Powerful” commercial, insisting that he created the slogan and demanding that the computer giant cease using it without his consent.

Artist James De La Vega’s lawyer, Richard Garbarini, has filed a cease-and-desist request with the company, claiming what is known as a common law trademark for the phrase, and is also asking the company to pay for use of the phrase. The request also says that the artist wants to come to a settlement with Apple and avoid a lawsuit, the Daily News reports.

De La Vega insists that Apple’s use of the slogan is confusing consumers, making them assume he “supports, approves and/or endorses” the company’s products. He also claims that Apple’s commercial “contradicts and undermines” the message he wants to send to the public.

The artist has used the phrase in a series of art works found on sidewalks and murals called “Become Your Dream” for more than 10 years, and told the paper that his quotes are intended to inspire people—not to encourage them to buy mobile phones.

De La Vega believes that his rights as a common law owner of the trademark have been violated. Upstart Business Journal states that according to the USPTO’s FAQ on trademarks, “Federal registration is not required to establish rights in a trademark. Common law rights arise from actual use of a mark and may allow the common law user to successfully challenge a registration or application.”

In Apple’s “Powerful” ad (below) people use the iPhone 5s to perform a variety of activities, promoting the message that with the capabilities of the device, “You’re more powerful than you think.”

What are your thoughts on De La Vega’s claim to a common law trademark?

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