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13 Dec 2019 9:57
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  •   Home > News > International

    OK Boomer may become TV show after US network Fox Media applies to trademark meme

    It's a phrase used to smack down the Baby Boomer generation online, but now US television giant Fox Media hopes to trademark "OK Boomer" and bring it to the small screen.

    It's a meme used to rile up anyone over 50, and has even been a comeback in New Zealand's Parliament — now a US media giant has filed an application to trademark "OK Boomer".

    Fox Media applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to use the phrase for "entertainment services", specifically a reality competition, comedy or game show.

    Founder of US-based trademark attorneys Gerben Law Firm, Josh Gerben, said the filing meant Fox had a "bona fide intent to use this name for a television show".

    "This cannot just be filed on a whim," Mr Gerben said on Twitter.

    "There was a sworn declaration submitted which says that if the applicant is filing based on an intent to use the trademark, that the applicant has a bona fide intention to use the mark in commerce."

    But can a meme last long enough to translate into a viable TV show?

    American sitcom S**t My Dad Says was based on a popular Twitter account and starred William Shatner, but only lasted for 18 episodes.

    Amanda Lotz, professor of media studies at QUT, said even a more straightforward game show would take at least six months to produce.

    "But [S**t My Dad Says] as a title summed up, pretty successfully, the concept," she said.

    "The network might be looking for the attribution surrounding the OK Boomer meme."

    What could an 'OK Boomer' TV show look like?

    Fox has a history of some big, hit reality TV shows, but not all of them have been winners.

    The US version of The Masked Singer and American Idol were both massively successful Fox shows, but at times they pushed the limits much further.

    "Fox is also known as the network for doing more boundary-defying shows," Prof Lotz said.

    She said The Swan, a 2004 reality show where "ugly" women were given extreme makeovers, including cosmetic procedures, was one of those. It was widely criticised at the time.

    And before shows like The Bachelor existed, Fox created Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? which aired in 2000. Fifty women vied for one man, but the eventual marriage was annulled after just a few months.

    The sale of large parts of 21st Century Fox to Disney changed the structure of Fox.

    Disney now owns Fox's former film and television studios, as well as its cable entertainment networks, leaving news channels and local networks with Fox.

    Professor Lotz said a greater focus on reality TV was the way of the future for many networks like "new Fox", as streaming services continued to entice more viewers.

    "What's similar about this is that news, sport and reality programming, they're about gathering and watching in real time," she said.

    "I think what we're going to start seeing is that a lot of other networks will start to follow this model."

    Crucially, she said that's where the advertising dollars were.

    "Owning these local stations is where the network [Fox] makes their money," she said.

    Trademarks aren't always easy

    Fox is far from the only company, or even individual, trying its hand at making a widely used term their own.

    In September, US basketball star LeBron James tried to trademark "Taco Tuesday" but the USPTO said it was a "commonplace term" and turned down his attempt.

    A stoush over the same phrase emerged in Melbourne last year, after a Melbourne pub received a cease-and-desist letter from restaurant chain Salsas Fresh Mex.

    Sports brand Adidas tried to establish a very particular trademark for its three stripe logo in the EU, but was also turned down.

    In the end, Fox could end up in a similar boat to James if the USPTO deems "OK Boomer" has already become mainstream.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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