Essence gets into trademark dispute over ‘Black Girl Magic’

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Essence is currently embroiled in a trademark dispute over the phrase “Black Girl Magic” with Beverly Bond, the founder of the organization Black Girls Rock!

The trademark claims are slightly different, with Essence wanting to claim “Essence Black Girl Magic,” while Bond wants “Black Girl Magic,” though it get more interesting when you consider the fact that Cashawn Thompson, who has widely been recognized as the originator of the #BlackGirlMagic campaign, was not aware of this trademark dispute and was not involved in it.

As far back as August 2014, Bond registered her application for a trademark of “Black Girl Magic” and claimed First Use in Commerce, though the application was marked as abandoned in October of 2016. However, earlier, in February, Bond had applied for a service mark application for the phrase, butting heads with Essence when, a month later, Essence applied to register “Essence Black Girl Magic” as a service mark.

— Essence Oscar gala puts black girl magic on full display — 

Part of the core of Essence’s argument is that #BlackGirlMagic is a cultural slogan and the catch phrase of an entire movement, thus making it difficult to trademark, which is why they added their brand name to the front of the phrase to differentiate it in their application. Additionally, Essence argues, Bond didn’t originate the term in the first place.

Essence is basically making two arguments,” explained Georgetown University law professor Rebecca Tushnet. “First, that the applicant didn’t have real ‘use’ of the term when she says she did, so she can’t apply if she didn’t use it. Essence is saying that the only thing she was doing was pitching a show called Black Girl Magic!, which is not the same thing. Essence’s second argument is that, you have to show that people recognize that [the trademark] is coming from you and [Bond] hasn’t. That, in fact, people use ‘Black Girl Magic’ to describe anything black girls are doing that makes them proud.”

In the meantime, however, Thompson, who has filed to trademark “Black Girls Are Magic,” is left feeling like these two big corporations have left her, the original creator, in the dust.

“More than anything, I’m just disappointed that two brands like Beverly Bond and Essence would be attempting to trademark something that came into popularity because I originated it online,” Thompson said. “I’m not a big name at all, and people like me are the ones coming up with the innovative ideas everyday and everyday getting erased in the process, and to me that’s just not good. I’m hoping the law catches up, so it won’t be so hard for people like me.”