Can You Trademark Your Name?

Athletes, celebrities and other well-known people have recognizable names. For this reason, other parties may try to profit from their likeness. In response, famous people may want to consider trademarking their name, but is this possible?

trademarkIf the Trademark Office views a name as “distinctive,” it can, in fact, be trademarked. Celebrities can hire an entertainment attorney to help begin the trademarking process. Of course, there are some exceptions. If a name is common, such as “John Smith,” the chances that it will be deemed distinctive are slim. The more unusual a name, the greater chances that trademark registration will be granted.

Trademarking can be beneficial for celebrities in numerous instances. For example, Morgan Freeman wanted to purchase the domain name www.morganfreeman.com. However, it was being used by Mighty LLC. Freeman sent an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and was granted the rights to the domain name because Mighty LLC was using it to divert Internet traffic to a commercial search engine.

In other instances, famous people may apply for a trademark to prevent other parties from profiting off their name. Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is a good example, as his nickname “Johnny Football” surged in popularity during the 2012-13 college football season. To protect Manziel’s likeness, he and his family trademarked “Johnny Football” to ensure other parties couldn’t profit from selling merchandise using the nickname.

Jay Z and Beyonce took it a step further and applied for a trademark to protect their daughter’s name- Blue Ivy Carter. It may seem odd to trademark a child’s name, but Mr. and Mrs. Carter have the future on their minds. By submitting this application, it prevents anyone from selling products – clothes or kid products – using the name Blue Ivy Carter.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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