On Monday, NY1 told viewers how businesses were trademarking the name Central Park for commercial purposes, making millions of dollars that could have gone to the city. It turns out one person has trademarked more products than anyone else, and he's running for president. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Grand, cultivated, iconic. Central Park is a household name, evoking New York charm and class.
And Donald Trump has been cashing in.
Pencil boxes, chandeliers, non-electric coffee percolators, trash cans and dozens of other seemingly random items, Trump has the exclusive right to brand them all Central Park.
"He personally had applied and received registrations for Central Park itself," said Jason Drangel, an intellectual property attorney.
Trump has been trademarking the words "Central Park" since 1991, reserving a name that belongs to all New Yorkers, without objections from the city or the Central Park Conservancy.
Consider Trump's Central Park furniture line, touted in a glossy 44-page catalog that mixes photos of the "elegant and rich" furnishings with glamour shots of the park...and Trump himself.
The city and the Central Park Conservancy have done little to protect their rights to the park's name, opening the door for others to claim it through the trademark process.
Records show that Trump is the single biggest private holder of Central Park trademarks. The art of these deals? They were a steal. Trump simply paid filing fees with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to secure exclusive rights to the Central Park name.
"I don't think that it's going to be so easy to do that in the future with other marks," said June Besek of Columbia Law School. "I think that they probably recognize what's going on and will try in the future to be more vigilant."
The city has been more vigilant with its rights to other iconic names. It's reserved nearly 200 trademarks, none as lucrative as those tied to the police and fire departments. Products bearing the logos and names of the two agencies generate 93 percent of the $1.1 million a year the city earns in licensing fees.
However, the city only began to protect the NYPD and FDNY brands relatively recently, after the surge of support that came following the September 11th attacks.
"When you start something new, it's easier to have a good trademark program," Besek said. "So with 9/11, it was not started new, but there's a lot of new merchandise and you can start from the very beginning treating it as a trademark, and making sure that it has the protections and the policies that you need to police the trademark."
That never happened in the case of Central Park's name. Previous mayoral administrations had an idea what Trump was up to. Records show that city lawyers filed at least three requests to delay his trademarks so they could have time to explore contesting his claims. Officials say city lawyers took a hard look but ultimately let Trump's trademark applications go through.
Trump's lawyer told NY1 that the city called him with concerns but agreed not to mount any challenges. Experts NY1 spoke to call it a missed opportunity for the city to seek licensing fees.
The Central Park Conservancy, which operates the park with city funds and donations, has registered some trademarks. Its Central Park Collection includes umbrellas and Christmas ornaments. But if there's going to be a plastic keychain tag with just the words "Central Park" on it, well, Trump's got that trademark, and he would profit from its sale.