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Has YOUR identity been trademarked? Disability for sale.

This petition had 2,592 supporters

Has YOUR identity been trademarked? Disability for sale.

Desired Outcome: We, disabled people and our allies, respectfully request the cancellation of the trademark “invisible disabilities” by the US Patent and Trademark Office. (US Trademark Registration No. 4315808, April 2013.)

Problem: The phrase, “invisible disabilities,” belongs to the People.  “Invisible disabilities” are real, bodily experiences. As a descriptive term, an invisible disability is not a consumer brand, it is an identity category. We, people with “invisible disabilities,” are a protected class under the ADA and the EEOC. No person or corporation should own or control our disabled identity or any other identity in terms of race, class, gender, or sexuality.

The issuance of the trademark, “invisible disabilities,” seems like an unfortunate oversight—as it is a generic term used since 1903 by disabled people, activists, educators, and the media.

Definition: An “invisible” or “non-visible” or “hidden” or “non-apparent” disability is any physical or mental or emotional impairment that goes largely unnoticed by the general populous. Invisible disabilities range from lupus to MS to hearing or visual impairment to bi-polar disorder or PTSD, and countless more unseen impairments/illnesses/disabilities that impede one’s daily life in a largely able-bodied-oriented society.

History: The phrase “invisible disabilities” shows up as early as 1903 and is cited over 22,000 times in legal, academic, and medical texts; our federal government, through the ADA and EEOC, has used “invisible disabilities” to clarify law and enforce anti-discrimination policies; since the early 1990s, academics in the field of Disability Studies have rigorously studied and written on “invisible disabilities”; and, significantly, countless activist organizations responsible for fair housing and employment, access to public transportation, an end to coercive disabled segregation (asylums and group/nursing homes), and myriad other forms of parity with the able-bodied population have used “invisible disabilities” to best characterize disabilities largely unnoticed and underrepresented in law and culture. The examples herein barely touch upon the pervasive use of the phrase “invisible disabilities” as it is a generic term used to clarify bodily variation unseen by most. The phrase “invisible disabilities” is an established, descriptive, primary meaning.

Significance: We, the people with “invisible disabilities,” are a protected, minority class. Trademarking "invisible disabilities" is akin to trademarking any racialized, sexed, gendered, or classed identity category. (For example, trademarking “transgender” or “white” or “economically disadvantaged” or “Native American” or “gay,” etcetera.)

Trademarking “invisible disabilities” puts an already vulnerable population at greater risk by limiting basic, accessible language available to activist organizations educating the broader public and advocating disabled rights.

On behalf of millions of Americans living with “invisible disabilities,” please sign this petition in support of cancelling Trademark Registration No. 4315808: “Invisible Disabilities.”



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