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Trademark challenger: Fired up over 'The Apprentice'

By Kelly Gyenes
CNN

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Donald Trump and Jessie Conners

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(CNN) -- While fans of NBC's "The Apprentice" gear up for the final firing, one failed contestant is gearing up for a fight with the man who fired her.

Jessie Conners, 22, from New Richmond, Wisconsin, was fired in week six's episode of "The Apprentice," the reality show featuring several people competing to win a $250,000 job with real estate mogul Donald Trump's organization. Each week, a contestant is dismissed from the show by Trump with what has become the latest catchphrase, "You're fired."

Trump fired Conners, in part, for not standing up for herself in a boardroom showdown with rival Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth.

Now, Conners has taken a stand against Trump by applying to register three trademarks in an effort to capitalize on her experience with the show and market products she said she intends to develop.

Conners has joined the list of people trying to register the trademark "You're Fired" -- in her case, for the purpose of producing a clothing line.

Conners said she has also submitted applications to register "The Apprentice" under the trademark classifications of clothing and literature. In addition to starting a "You're Fired" clothing line, she said she would like to write a book and perhaps produce a magazine titled "The Apprentice."

Previously, Trump applied to register "You're Fired" (without exclamation point) for games and playthings and casino services. In addition, Trump has applied to register "You're Fired!" (with exclamation point) for paper goods, home furnishings, pillows, housewares, linens, toys and sporting goods, alcoholic beverage and clothing purposes.

And JMBP Inc., the production company of show creator Mark Burnett, has filed to trademark "You're Fired" (without exclamation point) for clothing, footwear and headgear. Burnett has also filed to register "The Apprentice" for entertainment and television purposes, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site.

Neither Trump nor Burnett could be reached for comment.

Conners admits that she has entered a "gray area," because of the rights the show has to promote and advertise itself, and her contract with the show.

A legal debate already is heating up around the rush on trademarks related to the NBC hit.

"The question is whether or not the public would perceive [the words] as a trademark or a message," said Roger Schechter, professor of law at George Washington University Law School.

Will the public view the words as a communication or believe that the words are sponsored or licensed by Donald Trump? Schechter said the answer depends on what the public's reaction and perception would be.

"Everything in our world is gray, is kind of 'maybe,' " Schechter said.

Perhaps Trump summarized Conners best in his new book, "Trump: How to Get Rich," in which he wrote: "You've got to fight back if you want to be successful in business." While Trump noted in the book that Conners didn't defend herself on the show, he also concluded: "Don't underestimate her."

Maybe this apprentice has learned a lesson from the master. "Who knows if I'll get [the trademarks] or not," Conners said. "But the fact that I stood up and I am doing it and I am fighting ... that's where the fun is for me."


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