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Donald Trump faces $10K in fines for "You're Fired" banner on Trump Tower

By Wade Paulsen, 03/28/2004 

Donald Trump, the multimillionaire star of NBC's The Apprentice, is continuing his quixotic campaign to gain a trademark on the generic phrase "you're fired." This time, though, even New York City has turned against him.

In his latest bid to associate the phrase with himself, Trump raised a 13x25 foot banner featuring his picture and the phrase "You're Fired" on the exterior of Trump Tower (see a photo of it here) ... but without first receiving permission from New York City for erecting signage along Fifth Avenue, as required by city ordinance. As a result, according to the NY Daily News, the city issued four citations to The Donald's company that manages Trump Tower. Each citation carries a potential $2,500 fine, meaning that Trump could be fined $10,000 ... if he were to take the sign down now.

Trump, however, has no intent on taking down the banner, since it is still smaller than his ego. Slinging the same blarney as on the show, The Donald called the banner "the biggest tourist attraction in New York" and said "New York should appreciate it instead of fighting it." We expect that NYC boosters are thrilled to learn that, in the opinion of one of the city's best-known citizens, a 325-square-foot banner is a bigger tourist attraction than Ground Zero, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, Broadway, Central Park....

If, in fact, Trump were able to leave the banner in place, he might well make progress in his campaign to convince the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that "you're fired" is so associated with The Donald that his claim to ownership of the phrase has merit. However, the people opposing the banner couldn't care less about Trump's trademark claims. According to the Daily News, the leaders in the "remove-the-banner" campaign were Trump Tower's neighbors along Fifth Avenue: upscale boutiques such as Van Cleef and Arpels and Prada, which complained to NYC through the prestigious Fifth Avenue Association. We wonder if their main concern was less about the precedent and more about whether an enlarged photo of The Donald's comb-over would scare away customers.

Since Trump Tower Commercial, LLC, the Trump-controlled entity that operates Trump Tower. has not acted to remove the banner on its own despite the fines, the NYC Buildings Department plans to file an order on Monday with the New York Secretary of State to mandate the banner's removal. We expect that The Donald's right-hand man, George Ross (a well-respected NYC real estate lawyer before joining The Trump Organization), and The Donald himself will obey such a lawful order. But we doubt that we've seen The Donald's last scheme for making "you're fired" equal "Donald J. Trump."


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