Tom Scharfeld has seen off a challenge by the President’s legal team to naming his trumpet-teaching app, iTrump.
Tom Scharfeld, a San Francisco-based trombonist, has won his six-year battle with lawyers for the 45th President of the United States who objected to his using the name iTrump for a music education tool. As a result of the protracted dispute, Scharfeld has additionally forced Trump to cancel or withdraw some of his previous trademark registrations which were found to have not been used in a “relevant” context, according to a report on the Time Inc. website.
A lifelong jazz musician, Scharfeld designed his $2.99 iPhone app, which adopts an intuitive simulation approach to teach users to play trumpet, along with another called iBone, which does the same for the trombone, and filed the name back in 2010. A month later he received an intimidating letter from lawyers representing Donald Trump maintaining that his use of the name was detrimental to the quality of the Trump mark and would tarnish “the goodwill and reputation that Mr. Trump has built over the years”.
A lengthy David and Goliath scenario ensued, which saw Trump’s legal team defending a name that has been applied in the past to the billionaire’s real estate, hotels, golf courses and even beefsteaks against a sole trombonist who opted to represent himself throughout. “We won all the claims and defeated those against us,” said Scharfeld, maintaining that Trump’s lawyers had underestimated the possibility of an individual with no legal team winning the case right from the start.
Determined not to cave in, Scharfeld immersed himself for months in trademark law, learning how to respond in the correct legal language so as to be taken seriously. The case rested on his ability to prove that the word ‘trump’ does not apply to the notoriously vainglorious president alone but has a range of alternative meanings – from a ranking suit in a game of bridge to its use in England as another word for ‘fart’. Citing the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the trombonist showed that ‘trump’ is a commonly recognised substitute for trumpet, even cheekily drawing attention to its use as such in the Bible.
The famously litigious Trump responded with the full force of his sizable legal team, sidestepping Scharfeld’s requests for documents while simultaneously attempting to overwhelm him by burying him in thousands upon thousands of pages of paperwork. “They wanted to provide as little information as they could,” Scarfield told Time. “They just wanted to waste my time and disrupt my business.”
Although a ruling by the trademark office forced Trump to withdraw his opposition to the iTrump mark back in 2013, Scharfeld had the bit between his teeth with respect to challenging other Trump trademarks and it was only the decision last week that brought a conclusion to the case at last.
Not unsurprisingly, over the six years of legal dispute, Scharfield has been unable to sell his apps, both of which are available in the iTunes Store, as he would have liked. He now hopes to spend a little more time and effort marketing a product he hopes will be a useful and inexpensive way for people to familiarise themselves with two of the brass family’s most popular instruments.