No one should have the right to trademark a word, much less one they didn’t invent
By Jessica Berget, Opinions Editor
Popular rapper Cardi B recently applied to trademark her catchphrase “okurrr,” and a similar variation of “okurr.” She has had a hand in popularizing the term by saying it on late night interview shows and most recently in her Pepsi commercial. However, her move to try to legally claim the word has been criticized by many people—especially the drag and gay community. Many have argued that since she didn’t invent the term, she shouldn’t be the one to take the credit for and profit off of it, and I agree. It may be a great way to make money, but taking words out of the public domain for your own commercial benefit is not okay, okurrr?
From a business standpoint, the move does make sense. I think the term is so trendy right now that if her application to the US Patent and Trademark Office is approved, she could make tons of money by merchandising her brand with it. As The Atlantic explains, if the trademark does go through, this doesn’t mean that no one else will be able to say the word at all—Cardi B’s application is limited to specific merchandising uses on posters, cups, and clothing. However, that doesn’t make it right. She did not invent the word and it was popular before she started saying it.
Like with many catchphrases, it’s hard to say exactly where “okurrr” originated from or who invented it. Many people say that RuPaul’s Drag Race iconic season 6 contestant Laganja Estranja was the first to use the term on the show. RuPaul herself said that Broadway actress Laura Bell Bundy was the originator in a 2011 comedy sketch video. However, no matter who invented it or brought it into the mainstream, I don’t think anyone should be able to claim the rights to any word.
I think the word should belong to everyone because it’s just a fun thing to say or a great way to punctuate your speech. Once you say a word or phrase it becomes part of public parlance, meaning anyone can and should be able to say it. Just because Cardi B had a turn in popularizing “okurrr” and the term is closely associated with her now, it does not mean that she deserves the rights to exclusive merchandising for it. If you ask me, if anyone should be making money off of the word it’s Laganja and the other Drag Race queens who have been using the word well before Cardi.
The rapper defended her decision in an Instagram Live video by claiming, “Bitch, white folks do it all the motherfucking time,” but how does that justify it or make it okay? If you hate when people take credit and make profits off of things they didn’t invent, why would it be okay to do it yourself? It’s hypocritical and it sets an example for other people of what is acceptable. If you think it’s a shitty action to take, doing it yourself will only encourage others to do it as well.
Cardi B may have had a small part in bringing the term into mainstream culture, but she is not the only one to do so. The queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race have been saying this word well before her, so for her to think she deserves the merchandising rights is, to me, ridiculous.