Is The Trump Presidential Campaign Violating An American Express Trademark?

Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign is asking for donations by offering a Platinum card to denote membership in an exclusive tier in exchange. (HT: Tommy L.)

Here’s an email ask, under the name of Donald Trump, Jr.:

Given how critical of a role you’ve played in our movement so far, he could really use you on our team as a 2020 Trump Platinum Member.

Trump Platinum Members will go down in history as the Patriots who won us the 2020 Election, and we really want YOU to be a part of it. If you join today, we’ll even send you your very own PERSONALIZED membership card.

…I’ll be sending my father an updated list of Official 2020 Trump Platinum Members soon and I know he’ll be excited to see your name.

Here, by comparison, is my American Express Platinum card. Is the similarity here a problem? It isn’t just a ‘Platinum card’ but features an image of a person (Trump / a Centurion) in the center and the card’s border is very similar as well.

The Trump campaign certainly appears to have appropriated the trade dress of The Platinum Card. It seems unlikely to me that any potential customer for the card will be confused by the Trump campaign’s use here. I will leave the question of whether the Trump usage of the mark is dilutive to its value.

During the 2004 Presidential election, Starwood Hotels sent cease and desist letters to merchandisers selling George W. Bush memorabilia arguing they were appropriating the W Hotels signature “W.” So trademark disputes by travel and rewards companies during presidential elections is nothing new.

During the 2016 election the Trump campaign had an elite status program (complete with elite membership cards). Even that though is hardly new. The nascent Obama presidential campaign launched Obama Points in 2007.

Of course there really was a Trump Rewards Visa credit card, issued by Chase. It was a 1% rebate card, with rewards at Trump hotel and casino properties. The sample card image was issued to “Jack Pots”

Oddly convicted felon and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was something of a credit card rewards hound, showing off a wallet with 13 credits on Nickelodeon in the 1990s.

The ‘Platinum members’ in exchange for a $35 contribution reminds me of an amateurish campaign my dad ran in the 1980s to promote a car dealership sale. He used to voice over his own radio spots (hilarious at the time, albeit perhaps off color for today’s sensibilities). And he promoted a ‘moonlight madness sale’ via direct mail from “Western Express” made to look like a Western Union envelope. The goal of the envelope, of course, was to give it a sense of importance and urgency that led recipients to open it and read the contents.

It’s ultimately the contents though that drive action. It was clear what benefits were being offered during a Moonlight Madness sale on Cadillacs, a little less so what benefits come from being a $35 Platinum member of Trump 2020.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Is this a political blog, a credit card blog, or…..GASP….actually a TRAVEL blog? Because I’m not seeing anything travel-related in this post?

  2. @Gary,

    I understand you a democrat but please don’t make this a political blog than what it is already.

  3. Trademark office has already said that terms like Platinum when used in conjunction with credit cards is merely descriptive. This probably falls under the category of parody. Since its not a credit card or even being used anywhere close to that industry I don’t see the dispute. That isn’t to say Amex will be happy about this and they probably will send a cease & desist letter.

  4. Great rewards card and I understand you do not have to pay any sales tax on purchases.
    Covered in the benefits section under “only fools pay taxes”

    (I guess I’m a fool but I sleep great)

  5. You’d think Gary would be a democrat. But… lives in Texas.

    Also he thinks he’s super intelligent, and likes to “play the field” politically. You know… a thought leader and all that.

    He knows better basically.

    Should be a Democrat, but ain’t. Apparently. He would if he had real “thought leadership” and the guts to be open. But he ain’t.

    I’m trying to think of the best term… ahhh never mind.

  6. That’s pretty funny, and yeah it is super clearly a spoof of the Amex Platinum Card. I’m pretty sure that Amex has to send a cease and desist purely to defend their trademark, otherwise other companies could do the same thing and argue that Amex has abandoned it. Or more likely, Chase would come out with their own platinum card.

  7. American Express employee here. Something similar actually happened back in like June where Trump apparently used a symbol of an American Express card to signal donation to his campaign. Our CEO made a note during a townhall at the time that we were pursuing legal actions for the unauthorized use…I guess nothing really came out of that, or the campaign is just so shameless

  8. I am proud to be a Democrat, and I hate Trump. Glad to see Gary exposing Trump for being the slimeball that he is. Gary’s own political views are incomprehensible, but at least he exposes the bs when he sees it.

    By the way, the last time I checked, American Express cards have been a long-time frequent topic of this blog, so I don’t understand why some blog-readers think this post is off-topic.

  9. Political donors don’t like to burn big money on a badly sinking candidate in an election unless they still see something in it for them, so the big donors become fewer and stingier in the aggregate while the sinking candidate’s campaign tries to kick into overdrive small donations to make up for the loss of the political equivalent of the “smart money” and to also gather more committed individual voters/voter info to try to turn the campaign’s political fortunes around and maybe also their financial fortunes. Small donors can often be tapped to become repeat donors, even (or maybe because) the campaign appears to be sinking; and this is the equivalent of a casino customer putting up more money to stay in a game longer.

    If the “successful businessman” Trump really believes in himself so much, let him mortgage his future — and his struggling businesses — to put up all his own money to try to win re-election. Given Trump may need to win re-election to better his odds of staying out of jail/prison, he should be expected to do more desperate things within his reach. Could it really be that Trump doesn’t have enough money to even toss in a $100 million into his own re-election campaign? I guess that explains why he gets so upset when Bloomberg throws around money to try to defeat Trump.

  10. The Racist Pussy Grabber doesn’t care about laws. Can’t wait for him to convicted and locked up. The question is, will Melania have to go back to stripping? Gene above is an obvious racist who likes Pussy Grabbers

  11. I am just gonna say, his people are not very original. They copy too much. I don’t even like him (at all) but if I was gonna design a card for him. It would mimic Trump Tower, his gold plated apartment or something, not just looking like a credit card I pulled out of my wallet.

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