Sandy Hook Victim's Family to Apply for Trademark of Her Name
February 16, 2015
The gunman in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre took the lives of twenty children and six women. One of those victims was Victoria Soto, a 27 year old first grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School. After the event, authorities stated that Soto hid students and attempted to shield others from being killed--eleven students in her classroom survived.
Jillian Soto is alleging that people are creating false media accounts using her deceased sister's name. Many of these sites paint her sister in a false light--promoting conspiracy theories about the massacre or harassing the Soto family members. Moreover, Soto claims that the misappropriation of her sister's name is making it difficult for people to donate towards the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund, a fund which raises money to provide scholarships for aspiring teachers and mentors.
Her sister stated, "Vicki did a heroic thing, there are 11 kids that
are alive today because of the actions of my sister. And we
don't need anything negative to be tied to her name any longer."
Currently, the only avenue for the family to deal with the false use of Soto's name is to report it to the social media company. For instance, if an abusive or unaurthorized Twitter account appears, the family must fill out a form, send it to the company and wait for the social media company to investigate the account. The company will determine whether the account violates the company's policies and should be removed.
Twitter has not directly commented on this issue, but has pointed to their "Impersonation Policy," which permits the company to permanently suspend an account if they are deemed to be "portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner."
On February 9, 2015, the family applied for trademark protection of Victoria Soto's name in hopes of circumventing the arduous "reporting" process. A trademark registration of her name would give the family a direct avenue for insisting that the use of the name be taken down.
The trademark application is described as pertaining to "online advertisements" and the specimen or drawing showing how the mark is being used is an image of the scholarship website that uses Soto's name. Will the name be registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office? We shall see.
According to the USPTO, TMEP (Trademark Manual of Examining Procedures), 1301.02(b), the name of a character or person is registrable as a service mark if the record shows that it is used in a manner that would be perceived by purchasers as identifying the services in addition to the character or person.
The trademark application can be seen by clicking the following link: