An Illinois woman has recently submitted a request to register the “I can’t breathe” phrase to be trademarked for use on clothing.
Despite reportedly not knowing Eric Garner’s family or having spoken to them about her request, Catherine Crump would like to have sole ownership of the phrase to put on hoodies, t-shirts and other apparel for men, women and children.
The slogan first became popular when a video was released of Garner being confronted by police officers in July. Garner repeatedly expressed that he had done nothing wrong and asked the officers to leave him alone. Instead, officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in an illegal chokehold and as he struggled he said 11 times that he couldn’t breathe. Garner later died.
Since the grand jury decision not to indict the officer that killed Garner, “I can’t breathe” has been the slogan for protestors who want justice for Garner and against police brutality in general.
Everyone from famous basketball players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to football players and nameless protestors have been seen sporting shirts with the slogan written across the front.
Crump claims that she started using the phrase about a month after Garner’s death. But, according to Jonathan Masur, a University of Chicago law professor, if she can’t prove that she was the first person to ever make paraphernalia with the slogan “she’s going to be out of luck.”
“It’s conceivable it could be worth a considerable amount of money. They could make a tidy sum,” Masur said.
Though Crump has not given a specific reason for wanting to trademark the phrase, she continually denies that it is for financial gain, though that seems to be the only drawing factor.