As wars end, military gives its trademarks new vigilance

Then Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, Disney tried to trademark the name SEAL Team Six, and things ratcheted up from there. The Navy immediately fired back at Disney, filing its own trademark for the phrases “SEAL team” and “Navy SEALs,” terms that, the Navy said in its filing, imply membership in a Navy organization that “develops and executes military missions involving special operations strategy, doctrine and tactics.”

Still, the berm had been breached, especially with so many servicemen and women returning home and setting up small businesses. In 2012 and 2013, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines all saw a big spike in efforts to use military branding to sell goods and services, military trademark lawyers said.

“Because we’ve been in two wars in 10 years, we’ve had a lot of patriotism,” said Philip Greene, the Marines’ trademark counsel. “A lot of people are getting out of the service, saying, ‘I want to go into business.’ ” He said the “unpleasant part of my job is going out and talking to a Marine” and having to say no to someone who, proud of his or her affiliation with the service, wants to show it conspicuously in branding.