Businesses try to trademark phrase 'I can’t breathe'

British retailer says royalties would be used to help minority ethnic children in Manchester

People walk past a boarded up store front with a George Floyd mural on June 10, 2020 in New York City. On May 25, 2020, Floyd, a 46-year-old black man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes.
 / AFP / Angela Weiss
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Businesses in the UK and the US have applied to trademark the words “I can’t breathe” and “Black lives matter”, amid worldwide protests over the death of African-American man George Floyd.

British businessman Georgios Demetriou told World Trademark Review that he planned to seek royalties from other bodies that used the terms in the UK if he were successful with applications for both phrases.

Mr Demetriou said he planned to use any money raised to pay for the education of ethnic minority children in the English city of Manchester.

“I can’t breathe” has been used as a protest slogan since Mr Floyd died after repeating it while a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during his arrest.

Both applications were submitted to the UK trademark authorities on June 6 as thousands took to the streets around the world to protest against his death.

Mr Demetriou said he had not sought permission from Mr Floyd's family to trademark the words.

“Those words, 'I can't breathe' and 'Black lives matter', will appeal to a lot of people and they will pay heed, and we will use that to generate money that will go to people who deserve it,” he said.

The WTR said that at least six applications had been made in the US to trademark the phrase 'I can't breathe' and its variants for use on T-shirts and surgical masks.

US trademark expert Erik Pelton tweeted that the applications were reprehensible and likely to fail.