It was bad enough when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office foolishly permitted Microsoft to trademark the generic computer term "windows," touching off a legal row that rages to this day. But this is worse, if it comes to pass.

New York City developer and The Apprentice star Donald J. Trump has filed a request with this U.S. government branch to be granted the trademark to the longtime common phrase "you're fired." Part of Trump's copyright request, which also includes the variant "You're Fired! Donald J. Trump," is reprinted on The Smoking Gun website.

The immediate motivation for Trump's claim is the introduction of a line of "You're Fired!" T-shirts that were co-designed by The Donald at Bloomingdale's. Supposedly the shirts sold 300 units, despite their steep charge of $36 for male tees and $24 for female tank tops, upon their initial release in New York City. We commend people who have so much money that they don't mind sparing some of it to make a multi-millionaire richer.

The problem with Trump's application is that he doesn't merely claim exclusivity rights to "You're Fired! -- The Donald," as on the T-shirts, or "You're Fired! -- Donald J. Trump," as on the one trademark application. Instead, he claims a right to ownership of the generic phrase "you're fired," apparently based upon his use of it as (in his lawyers' minds, at least) a service mark on The Apprentice. But it boggles the mind to think that The Donald apparently believes that this phrase is so associated with him, even though it's been in common usage for decades, that he should be able to own it ... and collect royalties if anyone else uses it in commerce in any fashion.

Just imagine how much the producers of this scene from 1989's Back to the Future 2 would have owed The Donald if the U.S. granted this trademark:

Jitz: McFly, read my fax!
(The words You're Fired appear on screen, and the Jitz walks away.)
Marty: Please no, I can't be fired - I'm fired!
(Fax machines throughout the house print off You're Fired as well.)

Hopefully, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office learned its lesson after kowtowing to Microsoft to create the "windows" fiasco, which has now spread to foreign countries thanks to Microsoft's seemingly-limitless resources. If it hasn't, everyone in America and the rest of the world might want to be prepared to ante up for the benefit of The Donald.