Palin on Palin: When a Politician Trademarks Your Name

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From left: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters; Courtesy Sarah Beth Palin

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, left, and University of Texas student Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin wants to trademark her name. The former Alaska governor turned Fox News commentator, Going Rogue author, TLC reality star and SarahPAC founder — wait, do I really have to tell you who Sarah Palin is? — has submitted an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that is due to be approved within the next few weeks. Palin's name would be trademarked for "educational and entertainment services" as well as "motivational speaking services in the field of politics, culture, business and values," according to her application. Her daughter Bristol, 20, has also filed to trademark her name, for motivational speaking in the field of "life choices."

"Essentially, what they are doing is trying to commercialize themselves," says Neil Friedman, a New York trademark attorney. It's rare for politicians to trademark their names, but Palin left office in 2009 and has since become a successful media and entertainment figure. She would trademark her name the way someone like Calvin Klein might trademark his.

But what happens if there are other women named Sarah Palin? As it turns out, there's a 20-year-old University of Texas at Austin junior with this very problem. For the past three years, the nutrition major from Heath, Texas, has been inundated with jokes, insults and e-mails intended for her more famous namesake. TIME talked to the young Sarah Palin about what it's like to have the same name as a celebrity and whether she's concerned that her name could be trademarked.

When did you first learn about the famous Sarah Palin?
One day in 2006 I decided to Google my name and see what showed up. I found out that someone named Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska. For my 16th birthday, one of my friends bought me a Sarah Palin bumper sticker. I have it on my refrigerator.

What was it like during the 2008 election?
I was in high school the day [Palin] was named John McCain's running mate. I was sitting in class and suddenly bombarded with all these text-messages from my friends and family, congratulating me and saying I was going to be the next Vice President. I was like, What's going on? After that, the Sarah Palin jokes never let up. I knew that my life would never be the same.

How often do people mention Palin to you?
Ever since 2008, all my friends have called me by my full name, Sarah Palin. I rarely get called just Sarah. Every time she opens her mouth, I get attention. And now everyone's making the same joke — asking me if I'm going to run in 2012. I'm like, Wow, that's really original. I definitely haven't heard that one before.

Do people ever write to you thinking that you're her?
I still use my real name on my Facebook account. During the election, I'd get hundreds of messages and friend requests every day from people who thought I was her. I still get them occasionally — maybe five or six a day — but it's not that bad.

This past semester at school, I got a call from someone running in the student-council elections. They asked me to make a video endorsement for their campaign. You know, like, "I'm Sarah Palin, and I approve this message." I was too busy at the time, so I couldn't do it.

Palin is a pretty controversial figure. People either love her or hate her.
Yeah, some of the messages I get are really rude. My dad is her biggest fan in the world; he introduces himself as "Sarah Palin's father." My mom doesn't like her at all, so whenever Sarah Palin says something that gets her, they'll argue about it.

How do you feel about her?
She seems like a good and decent person, and she's enthusiastic about what she does. But she doesn't always sound very smart. Some of the things she says are hysterical. I don't hate her, and I don't love her. I just share the same name with her.

Is your name ever a problem for you?
Whenever I fill out a form for the first time, the store clerk or receptionist or whoever will look at me like I'm being a jerk.

Have you ever thought about whether your name will cause problems for you when you're older? For example, if you want to run for office or go into business or something?
I have thought about it, actually. I'm not a super-political person, and I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with my life, so I probably won't be in the same sort of profession as her. If I ever open up a business, I guess I could use my middle name. Sarah Beth Palin isn't trademarked.