Normally, the technicalities of the trademark world do not collide with Hollywood happenings, but a recent application for registration has brought trademarks on individual names into the spotlight. Our names define us as unique individuals. Granted, most people don’t have a trademark registration protecting their name, but then again, most of us don’t have hordes of fans camping out at our front doors, or a rumored net worth of one billion dollars. As you may have heard, Beyonce’s holding company filed applications to register RUMI CARTER (USPTO Application Serial Nos. 87/506,224 and 87/506,186) and SIR CARTER (87/506,188). Though it may seem bizarre or vain, this actually seems to be a proactive attempt to ward off troublemakers. It appears that when Blue Ivy was born, non-relatives attempted to register BLUE IVY CARTER (App. Serial Nos. 85/521,357 and 85/513,502). Apparently, the individuals attempting to profit off of a celebrity’s baby name were not aware of the trademark rules. Both applications by a non-relative received Office Actions requiring the owner to show consent of the individual whose name they were attempting to register. These initial rejections were consistent with Trademark Office rules for registration of an individual’s name. As you can imagine, neither of those applications made their way very far into the trademark system.
If an application is filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for registration of words that appear to be names of individuals, special rules apply. In general, if an application attempts to register a name, portrait, or signature that could reasonably be perceived as that of a particular living individual, then the applicant must provide the Trademark Office with information regarding whether such name, portrait, and/or signature in fact identifies a particular living person. If it does, the applicant needs to give the PTO both (1) a statement that the name, portrait, and/or signature identifies a living individual whose consent is of record, and (2) a written consent personally signed by the individual named or shown in the mark. Who would imagine that celebrities not only need to deal with paparazzi, but also take protective measures to prevent trademark infringers on their newborn twin’s names?
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