- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2011

One day after Osama bin Laden’s body was dumped into the North Arabian Sea, Walt Disney Co. executives smelled opportunity. The Hollywood giant filed three applications to trademark the term “SEAL Team 6,” the name of the elite special forces team that took down the world’s most wanted criminal. Disney wants the exclusive rights to slap the phrase on every product that could possibly make a buck.

The applications are currently pending before U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and will be assigned to a USPTO examining attorney in approximately three months. According to the company’s filings, Disney wants to be able to sell “SEAL Team 6” branded toys, games, sporting articles, clothing, shoes, hats, hand-held electronic video games, Christmas stockings, Christmas-tree ornaments and even tacky snow globes.

Disney isn’t the first to come up with the idea of exploiting a major military success. One day after the allied forces invaded Iraq, Sony applied to trademark the phrase “shock and awe” for use in a PlayStation game. After a firestorm of public criticism ensued, Sony withdrew its misguided application. Disney’s money-losing videogame division laid off 200 employees at the beginning of the year, and the firm likely wants to improve its bottom line with a cheap and easy knock-off game for portable devices. Another special forces-themed game, Activision’s “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” pulled in a whopping $1 billion last year.

Given the success of one of the highest-profile missions in recent memory, the SEAL Team 6 brand is strong. Public interest in the secretive unit is skyrocketing. Consumers want to know more about this best-of-the-best military team. Books, movies and documentaries are being pumped out to meet the demand for details on the unit’s training and operations. Yet these brave warriors would rather remain anonymous. Even President Obama doesn’t know the name of the man who shot bin Laden. There have been no victory parades, TV interviews or public media events for team members. It’s enough reward for them that they performed their mission and brought justice to the families of the victims of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. One doesn’t become a SEAL for fame or quick riches.

The patent office ought to reject this crass and unpatriotic attempt to convert such noble sacrifice into tawdry knickknacks. SEAL Team 6 doesn’t belong to Disney, nor does it belong to any other single company. The federal government has no business granting exclusive rights over a military unit to a Mickey Mouse company. It’s also not too late for Disney to follow the lead of Sony, withdraw its applications and instead send a generous donation to a veterans’ charity. That’s the best way to honor the brave men who took out bin Laden.