Can a large corporation own “peace, love, unity and respect?”
Los Angeles-based Insomniac Events, promoter of its flagship festival EDC Las Vegas and many other global dance music events, recently filed an application to secure a federal trademark registration on the ubiquitous rave phase, “PLUR,” an acronym that has come to define the moral ethos of dance music culture since the early ‘90s.
In its Feb. 10 filing at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Insomniac, owned by Live Nation, said that it intends to use the acronym as a name for a new clothing line.
But the application must still be granted by the USPTO, and Insomniac might face serious challenges in winning such final approval. Cultural catchphrases and other “widely used messages” like PLUR cannot typically be registered as trademarks on the grounds that consumers don’t associate them exclusively with a single brand or company.
In one high-profile case, NBA star LeBron James was refused a trademark registration for “Taco Tuesday” on those exact grounds.
And even if granted, such a trademark registration would give Insomniac only limited rights to PLUR. It would make it easier for the company to sue someone for putting the term on a t-shirt, but Insomniac would not “own” the word outright, nor be able to stop people from using it in many other contexts. If the company did attempt to sue someone, that person would have strong defenses in court.
A representative for Insomniac did not immediately respond to Billboard‘s request for comment.
The phrase “PLUR” was widely popularized by New York City DJ Frankie Bones in the 1990s and remains one of the central tenets of international rave culture. At any given dance festival, it often appears on homemade signs, t-shirts and other apparel.
PLUR has also long been incorporated into a rave-world ceremonial handshake of sorts, where one raver with “kandi” bracelets made of colorful beads touches another reveler’s finger tips while making a peace sign and saying “peace,” creating heart hands while saying “love.” Then, while holding hands and saying “unity,” they take off one of their bracelets and put it onto the other’s while saying “respect.”
Insomniac Events is the entity behind the Electric Daisy Carnival event brand, which counts the flagship production EDC Las Vegas and east coast offshoot EDC Orlando, as well as a wide umbrella of events including Beyond Wonderland, Electric Forest, HARD Summer and more.
Electronic music fans have found the trademark application troubling, taking to Reddit, Twitter and other social media outlets to argue that a commercial entity has no business turning a philosophical outlook into a profit-driven endeavor.