West Point as a Useful Adjective for Marketing – If the Army Will Let You

The Town of Highlands, in upstate New York (Orange County to be exact), is better known as West Point. The United States Military Academy resides in the town of Highlands too, and is also effectively known as West Point. There is a West Point Barber Shop, West Point Motel, West Point Cleaners, West Point Florist, and a West Point Pizza. There is no West Point Liquor Store, however. The government shut that down (they- the military and government, own the rights to the name West Point). They are also trying to shut down a website called WestPointGraduatesAgainsttheWar.org. It seems that our government is doing just fine limiting their trademarks’ usage as discriminately as possible.

Westpointgraduatesagainstthewar.org is the brainchild of West Point graduate (duh) Bill Cross. Cross has obviously gone to a lot of trouble to making this website. There are plenty of documents, quotes and opinions; all outlining Cross’ claim that the current war in Iraq is illegal. Let me preface the rest of this article by saying this is not a pro-war or anti-war piece; this is a merely a discussion over the rights to two words: West and Point.

I find it hard to believe that the U.S. Army was even able to trademark the name which, for all intensive purposes, has come to represent an entire town. It seems incredibly selfish to me. Yes, there is a very famous, very distinguished academy (which is the only thing the town is known for) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a functioning economy and a working society. If anything the name of the town should belong to the people who reside there; the people who keep it running. And it’s not like the government has owned the name forever. They waited until 2000 to apply for a trademark; it’s like they said, “Well if Paris Hilton gets ‘That’s Hot’ then we get to have ‘West Point.'”

Bill Cross has a simple answer for those questioning his right to use the moniker. He just points to the diploma hanging on his wall. “We’ve earned it,” said Cross, a Vietnam War veteran. For what it’s worth, a spokesman for the Army has also made some public remarks. “Users must have (the Army’s) permission to incorporate these words in Web sites or organizational titles,” D’Aquino said. “Cross’ organization would have received a letter even if it was called “West Point Graduates For the War.”

They say that, but is it true? It seems that the issue is has everything to do with content and politics, and very little to do with actual trademark laws. Why was a liquor store shut down for using the trademarked name while a barber shop has had the name for over 50 years?

“I’m 73 years old, I’ve been here 50 years and they’ve never bothered me,” said Bill Carlton, owner of the West Point Barber Shop. “As far as I know, anybody who wants to open (a business) can go ahead and grab (the name).”

Not anybody, Bill; just the people who don’t piss off the Army.


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