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Could someone trademark a fairly common string of words, like "This is Your Life" or "Ask [Name]"? My question specifically regards to the naming a podcast — not naming a business. There is a podcast named that, which is fairly popular on iTunes, but if someone else started a podcast with the same name, could the original creator sue?

Just to be clear, I do not want to name a podcast with the same name(s) mentioned above or anything along those lines — it's just a general question.

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Just Do It. The preceding sentence is one example of a trademark that consists of common words demonstrating that it can be done.

As to the podcast if you were duplicating the name of their podcast it would depend on a number of things including if they had trademarked that name, and how Apple's terms of service are for the iTunes podcasts.

  • Great point. Considering I worked for that company, I should have thought of that one. Appreciate the info. – Matt Nov 30 '17 at 19:36
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A trademark doesn't have legal value unless it acquires "secondary meaning" (i.e. an association with a good or service beyond the ordinary meaning) which is presumed for principal register U.S. federally registered trademarks but not for secondary register marks which put the world on notice of a claim as of a given date without a presumption of validity.

Another example of common word phrases is "You've got a friend in the diamond business" of Shane Company (a national jewelry chain).

Also even if a word mark by itself can't be protected since it doesn't qualify as a trademark by virtue, for example, of being purely descriptive in the ordinary sense of the words, those words protected only when coupled with a logo or special stylized script can be protected.

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