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For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files”—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current President—on November 7, 2016.
Donald Trump is a litigious man. He has threatened to sue the 12 women who have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault. He has threatened to sue the New York Times for publishing a story about his alleged sexual assaults. He sued Univision. His lawyers tried to shut down a bike race in Colorado because it was called the Tour de Rump. He sued an architecture critic for $500 million because the critic said he had bad taste. His real estate company once sued the mortgage company he’d slapped his name on for not paying rent.
So when Trump took over the Miss Universe pageant in 1996, every other pageant in America was soon on notice. Over the next two decades, his lawyers filed legal challenges against at least 23 different pageants, charging that they were infringing on the trademark of Miss USA, which Miss Universe LLP owns. The pageants challenged by Trump’s Miss Universe included Miss South Sudan USA, Miss Sierra Leone USA, Miss Teen Latina, Mrs. USA, Miss Plus USA, Señorita Mexico USA, Mr. and Mrs. Punjabi USA, Mrs. USA International, Miss Arab USA, and Miss Multiverse.
Wait, Miss Multiverse, really?
Yes, Miss Multiverse. (The complaint, which was filed in 2015, has not been resolved.)
Miss Universe under Trump (who sold the company in 2015) also filed complaints against Miss Sweetheart USA, Miss Thick’e USA, Miss Thick’e Universe, Miss Chinese USA, Miss Africa USA, Miss Black Universe, Miss Nude Southern USA, Miss Casino Queen of the Universe, Miss Asia-USA, Miss Guinee USA, Miss Gay Universe, Mr. Gay Universe, Miss Hip-Hop America USA, and Miss African-American USA.
Trump’s companies have a very good record in these cases. But he does not always win. In 2003, Miss Universe LLP filed a complaint opposing an application to trademark Miss Nude Southern USA, arguing that it was “confusingly similar” to the existing “Miss USA” trademark. “Applicant’s mark merely inserts additional modifying words (‘NUDE SOUTHERN’) between the words ‘Miss’ and ‘USA,’” his attorneys argued.
The owners of the competing pageant fired back with a compelling argument—adjectives matter. “The strong primary noun NUDE and SOUTHERN arranged between MISS and USA, prima facie contravert any allegation of confusing similarity.”
The two parties eventually reached a settlement and the complaint was withdrawn.