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Want to cash in on a catchphrase? Make ‘it’ happen

POSTED: January 30, 2011 12:30 a.m.

You have to admire them in a way.

They're the opportunists who briefly accompany Forrest Gump, the movie character who finds peace during a cross-country jog.

"Oh, man, you just stepped in big pile of ----!" one guy screams.

Gump's plain answer: "It happens."

Soon the phrase is plastered as a bumper sticker on what we can safely identify as the rear end of America.

The spirited contrast happens next when Gump, played by Tom Hanks, is suddenly caked head to toe in mud. He is given a cloth for cleaning himself. A smiley face appears after Gump returns the fabric.
It's the perfect "Don't Worry, Be Happy" answer to the cynical expletive.

Now, please understand me here. Cuss words, kindergarten kudos and grueling exercise are not what I find appealing in this sequence. Ingenuity is.

These men didn't grouse about the lucky sot who invented the paper clip. They seized good ideas, sold them and benefited from their pop-culture bonanzas.

Pro athletes get this. Or so I discovered in a New York Times story published last month under the headline, "Sports Stars Seek Profit in Catchphrases."

The article began with New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, whose solid football play this season led to his adopting "Revis Island" as a unique warning to offenses testing his downfield turf. The phrase latched. So did Revis, who hustled to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the story reported.

"Basically, anybody can market themselves," Revis said in the piece. "It don't matter if you're a high-profile player or not. You can find a way to market yourself and get yourself out there."
So began my own brief search for a wordy winner.

Sure, newspaper folks can be funny. But cash windfalls in our profession are about as common right now as Democrats under Atlanta's Gold Dome. I quickly cut my list of editorisms, including "This art sucks" and "Jump this!"

"Mommynator" remained as a sentimental favorite, and I circled another idea with Wal-martian potential.

The vision came to me along with a caricature image of Paula Deen, the cooking diva I once interviewed for the obituary of her softer-spoken Savannah rival, Mrs. Selma Wilkes. I pictured Deen's torso crisscrossed with ammunition belts, her shoulder slung with a rocket launcher, and her radiant image punctuated with an appropriate courtesy title: "Ma'ambo."

Quick key strokes into the federal USPTO web site told me the word, not Deen's exaggerated mug of course, was free game.

Another search told me even more. I was not the only one in Gainesville considering turf protection like Revis. About 730 trademarks, both active and abandoned, belong to owners in this city.

Brands registered here include the castle-like dwelling that symbolizes Riverside Military Academy and the leafy image tagged as Northeast Georgia Medical Center's logo. Tanning and beauty products are numerous, with the " ‘Bad Hair Day' Cover Up" as a former standout.

Tool products compose a large segment of locally grounded trademarks, too, with one on the cusp of historical greatness. It boldly reads: "LIFE IS COMPLICATED ENOUGH ... CAULK DOESN'T HAVE TO BE!" Amen, brother.

Forsyth County businesswoman Blayne White, 45, explained the drive to protect her concept, Rhinestone Road.

"It's finally an idea that I didn't just let sit on the shelf," White said.

After nearly a year of waiting and $1,000, she earned the right last August to tag "TM" on every reference to her business, which centers on a computer program tailored for non-graphic designers longing to create digital scrapbook pages.

"It sounds silly, but it was exciting," White said, of how she felt receiving the official gold seal from the government. "(It means) I'm going to do something with this. I have an idea. I'm going to stick with it and see it through."

White deserves to be thrilled.

Sound ideas can stick like steaming cow patties or leak-proof caulk jobs, I figure.

Work hard enough and you have to believe, windfalls of good fortune really do "happen," too.

Erin Rossiter is a reporter for The Times whose columns appear on Sunday's Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com.

 



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