Celebrities have enjoyed success in registering all kinds of things for patent protection: clothing lines, nicknames, logos, and even catchphrases. Lately, they’ve added another category to the list: Their own children’s names.
The superstar musical couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z, for instance, are doing all they can to build legal protections around the name of their 7-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. So is the Kardashian clan, with several of their kids.
In both instances, the reason for seeking trademark protection is mostly economic. The parents intend to use their kids’ names on consumer products. Beyoncé and Jay-Z reportedly had in mind "Blue Ivy Carter" apparel, skincare products, fragrances, and the like, and that’s why they filed to register their daughter’s name mere days after she was born.
Applicants Must Demonstrate ‘Use’
The problem they face, however, is that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a stringent "use" requirement, meaning that applicants must show that they are using the trademark now — and not just seeking to gain protection for some prospective future use.
This is why Blue Ivy Carter’s parents have thus far failed in registering her name for a trademark. But they do keep trying. Most recently, the couple have been embroiled in a legal dispute with an event planner, Wendy Morales, who has objected to the trademarking of Blue Ivy Carter’s name because her business is called Blue Ivy. Beyoncé responded by saying that her daughter is a "cultural icon," while Morales’ business is basically just small potatoes.
The Kardashians, meanwhile, have filed a raft of applications to register trademarks for their kids: Chicago West, North West, Psalm West, Saint West, Stormi Webster, and True Thompson.
Why the strange names? Other than the possibility that the parents like the sounds of them, they also provide greater protection from commercial exploitation by others. "If Beyoncé and Jay-Z had named their daughter Jennifer, say, she’d be one of nearly 2,000 Jennifer Carters in the U.S. and it would be difficult to prove that someone selling Jennifer Carter crib bumpers was trying to trade on the name of their little Jennifer Carter," authors Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz wrote in HuffPost. "But when entrepreneurs rushed to trademark the name Blue Ivy, Beyoncé and Jay-Z made a preemptive move to protect their daughter’s moniker from outside exploitation."
How About People Who Aren’t Celebrities?
These wealthy parents can probably be excused if they sound eccentric because, after all, they are wealthy and can afford to be.
But what about average Janes and Joes? Can they trademark their kid’s name?
If you’re expecting a child, could you dream up a weird name for them and start planning an application to the USPTO?
The technical answer is: Yes, but why would you want to? It could only useful in a business sense, and you’d need to show that people will think of the product or service affiliated with your kid’s name when they hear it.
You’re probably better off sticking with a conventional name. And besides, your child might be happier with it.
- Greatest Hits: The Best of Celebrity Justice (FindLaw’s Celebrity Justice)
- How Difficult Is It for Sports Stars to Get Trademarks? (FindLaw’s Tarnished Twenty)
- Registering a Trademark (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- Trademark Infringement Law FAQs (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
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