With ‘Fake News’ Trademark, a Journalism Group Seeks to Take Power From Trump

SPJ joins a dozen others seeking to trademark the phrase

man in a tie standing in front of a fake news trademark certificate
SPJ hopes to strip some power from Trump by trademarking the term 'fake news.' SPJ
Headshot of Sara Jerde

The Florida Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is turning President Trump’s language around on him. The journalist advocacy organization has applied to trademark the term “fake news” to discourage the White House—and politicians and celebrities—from using it inappropriately.

The ability for Trump to use the term “fake news” to characterize reporting that is critical of him has proven to be “an effective weapon,” said Emily Bloch, president, SPJ Florida Pro Chapter, in a statement. The SPJ chapter spearheaded the stunt with Calgary-based agency, Wax.

“We’re now seeing people using the term to dismiss truthful stories that don’t align with their politics or views. And that’s a major problem for healthy discourse in a democracy,” she said.

Trump began frequently using the term on the campaign trail during the 2016 presidential election to characterize dispatches from publications like CNN and The New York Times in an attempt to discredit what those outlets were reporting.

Since occupying the White House, Trump’s relentless use of the term hasn’t let up.

The SPJ chapter isn’t just hoping to trademark the term. It also plans to send cease and desist letters to frequent offenders, such as Trump.

To commemorate the stunt, SPJ created a launch video and website to walk users through the mission. SPJ isn’t the only entity looking to claim this term as their own. There are already more than 10 applications with the government to coin the phrase.

“We’re hoping the idea is provocative enough to get people to stop and think about how they use the term or what it means when others use it,” Bloch said. “After all, the vast majority of news you hear called ‘fake’ isn’t actually fake.”


Agency: Wax
Creative Director: Nick Asik
Design Director: Monique Gamache
Copywriter: Chris Lihou
Art Director: Brad Connell, Sam Benesh
Director, Strategy: Greg Damus
Account Supervisor: Yash Keough
Account Coordinator: Lexi Scott
Set Designer: Andres Aramburu
Print Producer: Linda Waldner
Production Artists: Thomas Turner, Tina Song

Production Company: Glean Productions
Director: Noah Fallis
Producer: Sean Parker
Camera Operator: Braden Dereniwski
DIT: Alyssa Howland
BTS Videographer: Levi Howland
Key Grip: Blair Bourque
Grip: Shae Paterson
Gaffer: Peter Markowski
Sound Mixer: Francesco Russo
Hair & Makeup: Nikole Denovan

Audio Production: Six Degrees
Audio Director: Dan MacManus
Audio Engineer: Chris Vail, Dary Barclay

@SaraJerde sara.jerde@adweek.com Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.