A British businessman has been slammed after applying to trademark the phrases ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘I Can’t Breathe’.
Georgios Demetriou, 57, from Manchester, made applications on June 6 to trademark the phrases associated with the protest movement following the killing of George Floyd in the US.
Demetriou is the founder of License to Thrill, which has operated the online bicycle store Ridelow in Manchester since May 2000.
He claims that the trademarks will be for ‘charitable work’, though he has been accused of attempting to exploit the BLM movement after admitting he will charge others royalty fees if people use either phrase.
Both applications are for clothing while the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ trademark is also intended for charity wristbands.
Georgios Demetriou, 57, from Manchester, is attempting to trademark the phrases ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘I Can’t Breathe’
Speaking to World Trademark Review, Demetriou said that he intends for the two trademarks to be used for ‘a charity to help the inner-city kids in Manchester’,
His plan, he claims, is to launch two organisations – ‘Black Lives Matter’ with a focus on education, and ‘I Can’t Breathe’ as a ‘a voice for the young people’.
Demetriou says that, while he hasn’t sought permission from Mr Floyd’s family, he would ‘be open’ to working with them.
He said: ‘If I can encompass the Floyd family, such as helping his daughter, brilliant – but I don’t think I’ll have the power to do that as I don’t think the family will be interested in me.’
Demetriou’s attempts were brought to the attention of social media users by Cllr Pav Akhtar, who is a councillor for Preston.
He tweeted a photo of the applications yesterday, captioned: ‘What never ceases to amaze me is peoples’ capacity to exploit black lives to make money.
‘I mean, white Brit Georgios Demetriou trying to trademark Black Lives Matter so he can make Black people pay him royalties for demanding equality is peak exploitation.’
The image shows both applications, under the request for ‘I Can’t Breathe’ is a disclaimer which reads: ‘This trade Mark is to be used for charitable work and not for personal gain on the back of recent unfortunate events.’
The tweet, which has been liked more than 5600 times, prompted outrage from social media users.
George Floyd was killed after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck
Demetriou, 57, is the founder of License to Thrill, the company behind the applications, which has operated the online bicycle store Ridelow in Manchester since May 2000
Akhtar Takhsin wrote: ‘What kind of person tries to trademark an entire social movement for racial justice to try and secure ‘royalties’ from the very real and systemic suffering of black people?
‘The pain of racism is real. It isn’t a trademark to profit off whatever tenuous attempt to justify it is.’
Dr Ruth Agbakoba replied calling Demetriou, ‘Outrageous.’
And Grace Pinnock said: ‘As I have said before and I will say it again, the only purpose black people serve in the minds of some folk who are not black is to profit at their expense, but black people must not profit in their own interest.
‘This is what we have fought against for years.’
Following the furor, the government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) weighed in, pointing out that people have the option to oppose applications.
They wrote: ‘While we have a responsibility to examine the validity of applications like these under trade mark law, the consideration we give them will not be without recognition of current and historical injustices.’
Speaking today, Cllr Akhtar praised the IPO’s ‘culturally sensitive and emotionally intelligent response.’
Demetriou’s attempts were brought to the attention of social media users by Cllr Pav Akhtar, who is a local councillor for Preston
The 42-year-old said: ‘I think if the IPO was to do anything but reject this application there would be uproar.
‘It is just outrageous. People have no sense of shame. Black lives are already commercialised but this is beyond commodification. It’s repackaging black pain and selling it back to black communities.
‘I was genuinely shocked at the depravity of commodifying a dying man’s words, it’s obscene.
‘I’ve seen that he has claimed that he will be using the money to fundraise for ethnic minorities in Manchester.
‘Firstly, when you look at who is doing this, you’ve got a white man who does not appear to mention racism anywhere else.
‘And secondly, if you’re serious about helping black people then why are you not amplifying black voices? Have you actually asked any black people if this is what they want?
‘There are numerous black-led organisations such as Black Lives Matter already working and fundraising within these communities.
‘Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Labour MP for Streatham) was brilliant and immediately lobbied the IPO and has conveyed the strength of feeling surrounding the application.
‘Because for some people, it will just be a case of ‘that’s rude and disrespectful’, but for black people it’s exploiting real and deep pain.’