We’ve all seen the headlines pop up where one celebrity or another has decided to trademark their name. Remember the battle of the Kylies? Kylie Jenner wanted to trademark “Kylie,” but Kylie Minogue was not going to let that happen.
While Kylie may not have been successful in her quest for trademark registration, many other celebrities have been. Famous names such as Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and even President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have all successfully trademarked their names.
So this may have you wondering, can you trademark your name?
Can You Trademark Your Surname?
Unfortunately, most of us won’t meet the requirements for trademarking our surname. A name that only serves as your surname, or last name, isn’t enough to qualify for a trademark. If your surname goes beyond this and consumers equate your surname with your business, then you may have grounds for trademarking.
You may also be able to trademark your name if it has an alternative dictionary meaning. For example, last names such as Bird, Hall, Wood, or Bell all have an alternative dictionary meaning. These names aren’t treated as names, but as common words.
When you submit an application for the trademark of your name, the USPTO will look at several factors. One easy threshold is to have the name be yours. There needs to be someone connected to the trademark application who has the surname.
Then they will consider if the surname is a common one. The more common your name, the harder time you’ll have proving that it universally represents your business. If your name is extremely rare, the threshold for secondary meaning may be lower due to the uniqueness of the name.
Next, the USPTO will look to see if the name has any alternative meanings or definitions. This is where Kylie’s application failed. Since Kylie Minogue was a much more established figure across the world, the name Kylie could easily be confused.
Some examples of successfully trademarked surnames are Dell, Ford, Chanel, and McDonald’s. When you read these names, did you think of the person or the corporation?
Why Limit Name Registration?
If the USPTO lets anyone register their name, it would effectively block someone else from registering with the intent of using the name for their legitimate business. After all, there are only so many names in the world, and people are bound to have the same name.
The USPTO would be overrun with registrations for names that ultimately never get used for anything.
An example of this kind of conflict can be seen in current headlines. Beyoncé wants to trademark her daughter’s name “Blue Ivy Carter”, but there is already a wedding planning business that is known by the name Blue Ivy. Both parties claim a right to the name, and it is up to the court to determine if Beyoncé should get her trademark for her daughter’s name.
How to Trademark Your name
The best way to apply for a name trademark is to work with an experienced attorney. We’ve only begun to explain the subtleties of intellectual property law in this blog post. Your attorney will be able to assess the use of your name and create an application that best supports your request.
Before submitting your application, your attorney will perform a thorough search of the trademark database. This will save you from rejection due to conflict with an already registered trademark.
Once you know your name is available for trademark, you will work with your attorney to gather the supporting documents necessary to prove that your name has secondary meaning that directly relates to your business.
Our team can help you determine if you can trademark your name and help you through the registration process.