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Alt Legal Blog

Your source for news, updates and guidance on all things trademarks and intellectual property.

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Law

Alt Legal Team | January 12, 2024
6 min read

This article was originally published on January 17, 2022 and was published with updates on January 12, 2024.

At Alt Legal, we celebrate the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a company founded by two people of color, we have a particular appreciation for the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are always looking for ways to support diversity in law and to provide a platform to discuss these issues. We’re extremely proud of our work to promote social justice and want to take the opportunity on this momentous day to re-share what we consider to be some of the most meaningful, thought-provoking, and change-inspiring content that we’ve produced.

In addition to producing content that we hope will inspire social change, we want to contribute financially to organizations working to promote social justice.

Our Financial Contributions to Support Diversity


Although Trademarket, Alt Legal’s online shop for punny trademark gear, is lighthearted in concept, we bring more meaning to the endeavor by donating all net proceeds to charities focusing on diversity.

Alt Legal Diverse Business Grant

Alt Legal has committed $10,000 to help attorneys who are transforming their communities and showing that Black lives matter there and everywhere. As part of this, we are offering trademark docketing software and Alt Legal Trademark Protection tools to organizations that stand against violence, racism, and excessive punishment. Additionally, we are working with our customers to offer Black- or minority-owned businesses free or reduced-cost trademark docketing. Whether you’re an existing Alt Legal customer or have yet to automate your trademark docketing, if you need a leg up while you support your community, apply for an Alt Legal Diverse Business Grant here. If you’re interested in contributing so that we can expand this program, please contact us at

Alt Legal Content and Initiatives Promoting Diversity

Black Lives Matter Lawyer Resource Page

Under the best of circumstances, starting or running a law firm is difficult. For people of color, societal disadvantages and institutional racism complicate issues even further. We created the Black Lives Matter Lawyer Resource Page, containing a number of resources for starting or running a practice in general as well as additional organizations that work to support and promote businesses (including law firms) founded by people of color.

Alt Legal Connect Session on Cultural Appropriation

At Alt Legal Connect 2023, “When Imitation Is Not Flattering: Cultural appropriation in trademarks.” During this session, Nicole Gaither of SageHaus Legal moderated a panel discussion with Angela Grayson of Precipice IP, Keely Herrick of KHerrick Law, and Katherine Belzowski of the Navajo Nation DOJ discussed why cultural appropriation matters when it comes to trademarks, what obligations trademark practitioners have to the public when it comes to these sensitive situations, and how trademark practitioners can guide their clients who want to apply for culturally-sensitive trademarks. The recording of this session is available to view for free.

Key takeaways from the session include:

  • Cultural expression – expressions of folklore including music, dance, art, designs, names, symbols, signs, etc. that form part of identity and heritage of a traditional or indigenous community and are passed down across generations.
  • Cultural appropriation – the adoption, without acknowledgement, of cultural identity markers, from subcultures or minority communities into mainstream culture with a relatively privileged status.
  • From a trademark perspective, branding and making money from other cultures’ expressions is what is problematic.
  • The fashion industry has been guilty of cultural appropriation, borrowing symbols from other cultures and using them as decoration rather than representation of religious or cultural narratives.
  • Most designers are not looking deep enough to understand the historical and cultural meaning behind their design choices and must give credit to the originating culture and/or people who started certain trends.
  • Key to properly borrowing from other cultures is giving credit.
  • Commodifying other cultures’ holidays and traditions is another way to show disrespect, rather than taking the opportunity to give credit, acknowledge cultural origins, or educate people about these traditions.
  • The Supreme Court decided the Matal v. Tam case holding that the disparagement clause was unconstitutional under First Amendment and that Tam could register the mark THE SLANTS. While the band members wanted to reclaim this disparaging term, there is some concern that ruling might work adversely where people don’t want others claiming the term and it could be a step back for larger community who don’t want their terms being used commercially.
  • The Navajo Nation has over 100 marks registered with the USPTO. The Navajo Nation works hard to police its marks, to ensure its marks are used appropriately, and to ensure that its mmarks are used with the Navajo Nation’s consent.
  • Avoid cultural appropriation by:
    • Asking clients what the term means (what do they think it means and conduct your own research to determine what it means and if there is cultural significance)
    • Standing up to clients and telling them it’s not a good idea, or if you do use the cultural expression, someone from the community
    • Refusing to apply for the registration or refuse the engagement
    • Hiring a diverse team of people who may be more culturally aware if your team isn’t already diverse

Alt Legal Connect Session on Practical Ways IP Attorneys Can Advance Social Justice

At Alt Legal Connect 2021, Christian Williams, Founder of Bevel Law, Tyra Hughley Smith, Founder of Hughley Smith Law, and Kimra Major-Morris, Founder of Major-Morris Law presented the session, IP Matters: Practical ways that IP lawyers can advance social justice. The presenters provided a practical perspective on how IP lawyers can contribute to social justice in their everyday lives. The session was rebroadcast as a live webinar which you can view here (registration required).

Key takeaways from the session include:

  • Social justice is the idea that all people should have equal access to wealth, health, well-being, justice, privileges and opportunities regardless of their legal, political, economic, or other circumstances.
  • Pre-Civil War, enslaved Africans were not considered authors or inventors because they were not US citizens. Their inventions were not patentable, nor could slave owners take credit for their inventions.
  • Renowned Black musical artists including Scott Joplin, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Little Richard were routinely denied the benefits of copyright and rights to royalties,
  • Several brands have perpetuated and entrenched racial stereotypes in their branding, subjecting Blacks and other communities to racial discrimination.
  • Law is the least diverse profession in America. The ABA found that only 5% of attorneys are Black, 5% are Latinx, 2% are Asian. This is compared to the Black population in the US as a whole – 13.4%.
  • According to the Harvard Business Review, 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running a new business, which demonstrates higher and faster growth than any other subset. But these women need representation that looks like them.
  • IP practitioners working with brand owners must do their part to avoid cultural appropriation– the adoption of expression, traditions, artifacts of a certain group without their consent, compensation, without giving credit, and without giving input. Attorneys can help by promoting input and collaborations and making socially responsible recommendations.

Alt Legal Connect Session on DEI

At Alt Legal Connect 2020, David Lat, Managing Director at Lateral Link and founder of Above the Law, presented the session, Defining Diversity. During this session, David discussed how to expand our definition and understanding of diversity in order to create truly diverse and inclusive workplaces. The recording of this session is available to view for free.

Key takeaways from the session include:

  • Diversity is the what and equity and inclusion are the how, the culture that helps diversity to thrive.
  • When corporate culture doesn’t retain different perspectives, diversity cannot exist
  • Beyond racial and ethnic diversity, gender diversity, and sexual orientation diversity, it is important to consider as characteristics of diversity: disability, first generation status and socioeconomic diversity, veteran status, intellectual diversity, and diversity of ideas.
  • Law firms are realizing that they must care about DEI as clients increasingly want to see diversity in handling their legal work.

Alt Legal Connect Session on Culturally Relevant Representation

At Alt Legal Connect 2020, Ticora Davis of The Creator’s Law Firm presented the session, Culturally Relevant Representation. During this session, Ticora offered strategies and practical tips for marketing to, communicating with, and representing demographics different from your own, including those outside of the US. The recording of this session is available to view for free.

Key takeaways from the session include:

  • The term “culturally relevant representation” has its roots in education, where teachers display cultural competence in the classroom and make an effort to tie in what a child is learning in school with the cultural cues and contexts outside of school.
  • In terms of legal representation, “culturally relevant representation” becomes a formula for diligent advocacy that adheres to the cultural experience of your clients.
  • In trademark prosecution before the USPTO, it is important to explain the cultural context of a mark, if applicable, so that the examiner can properly analyze the mark.
  • Culturally relevant representation is just one more element of every lawyer’s responsibility for competency. Part of the requisite legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation mandated by Model Rule of Conduct 1.1 is the ability to understand and translate the cultural experience of every client to successfully protect their IP.
  • When working with trademark clients from cultures other than your own, it is necessary to learn the cultural context of the mark, identifying the community or traditions in question, and exploring how the mark can affect the attorney’s legal argument.
  • Demonstrate the cultural use of a word by citing non-traditional sources including Urban Dictionary, pop music and movies, news articles and interviews.
  • Enslaved African Americans were forced to transfer their IP rights to slaveowners to obtain freedom from slavery. This broke the entrepreneurial spirit in the African American community. Now, efforts must be made to support and encourage that spirit in the African American community and one of the first steps in business is to secure IP rights.
  • Now that the USPTO requires that foreign domiciles be represented by US counsel, this is an excellent opportunity for US attorneys to get to know clients from other cultures.

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