Why do celebrities register trademark names of their children?

Authors: Violeta Sutkiene, Associated Partner, Head of the Trademark and Design Division at METIDA; Vita Sinkeviciene, Junior trademark and design consultant at METIDA

Img89363_kkeditHave you ever thought that your name or the name of your child could be registered as a trademark? Singer and designer Victoria Beckham has filed applications to trademark the names of her four children. A verbal European Union trademark Harper Beckham was registered on Dec. 22, 2016. In the application, Victoria is listed as parent and holder-custodian of rights. This makes her the only person who can legally use the name in products and services. The name and trademark of a celebrity’s child was registered in categories of goods and services, which cover products, such as toys, clothing, health and beauty products, publications, audio and video. You would not be able to provide services branded Harper Beckham in music recording, concerts, television, education and sports.

Names of the family’s three sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz have also been trademarked in combination with the Beckham last name. And it seems that the brands are already in use: the oldest son Brooklyn Beckham is gaining recognition as a photographer, Harper Beckham has collaboration with English National Ballet, Romeo Beckham works with Burberry fashion house, while Cruz Beckham has published his first musical recording If Every Day was December.

Without doubt, celebrities have also trademarked their own first and last names. David Beckham registered his trademark in the European Union’s trademark register in 2000, while Victoria followed suit in 2002.

VC125071_editThe question is why the celebrities want to protect their names and the names of their children by trademarking them? There are two main reasons. The first one is that a trademark ensures an official legal protection of the stated list of goods and/or services. This can provide earnings from a legally protected name, for instance, by licensing it or directly selling your products with a registered trademark. Please note that a license is a permission from the trademark owner (licencor) to another person (licensee) to use the trademark under terms and conditions set out in the licensing contract. The trademark owner has the right to provide another individual with a voluntary exclusive or non-exclusive license for marking all or some of goods and/or services in a certain territory.

The second reason is to prevent others from trademarking identical or very similar names to profit from celebrity names. As a matter of fact, it is important to emphasise that requirements for the use of trademarks differs from country to country. For instance, the US has highly complicated rules for the requirement to use trademarks immediately after registration. Meanwhile, applicants in the European Union does not have to provide proof of the use of a trademark to obtain an EU trademark registration certificate. However, the so-called five-year use rule applies here, as well. If a registered EU trademark is not used for five years after registration, a claim can be filed to demand cancellation of the rights of the existing owner of the trademark.

Jay Z and Beyoncé’s 2012 attempts to trademark the name of their daughter Blue Ivy Carter in the European Union’s register of trademarks was not a very successful example. There were no obstacles for the trademark registration in the EU, however, the celebrities could not ensure registration in the US, as they had to prove to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that they were indeed using the trademark for listed goods or services. Since the beginning of this year, the couple are still trying to trademark Blue Ivy after their first application was rejected by USPTO, as the celebrities failed to prove they were actually using the trademark. As the couple is not yet using their daughter’s name in any activities and on any products, the US trademark office is likely to refuse registration of the trademark again. In such case, they will not have exclusive protection of the name linked with their child’s first name. A similar scenario is possible with the applications filed for trademarking of the newborn twins Sir Carter and Rumi Carter as trademarks in the US.

Going back to David and Victoria Beckham, they continue broadening the protection of their children’s names, by registering international trademarks based on the European Union trademarks and gaining broader legal protection in other countries around the globe with time. National registration and a trademark of the European Union as a unit can serve as basis for international trademark. Further expansion of the protection to other countries is a continued process.

When trademarking your names or your children’s names, be sure to first of all make a correct choice of the territory and the scope of the protection (i.e., make the final list of goods and services, which you will not be able to update in the course of the application). After successful registration of the trademark in a proper territory, you will obtain protection for future goods or services. Throughout the period of trademark validity, other individuals will not be able to use the registered word or expression, as the registered trademark can be extended an unlimited number of times every 10 years. Looking at the future and following the examples of celebrity parents, you can start planning the legal protection of your child’s name immediately after their birth and, of course, seek maximum protection for their future activities.

People’s names that have been trademarked in due time and used in reality can become internationally known trademarks and thus raise the value of intellectual property. As we see from the successful examples of the Beckham family, the famous parents and their underage children have achieved enormous commercial success. They do not only earn from direct revenue generated by the use of the trademarks but also from the licenses. Additionally, trademarks acquire value with time, and the value can be measured in monetary terms.

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