With the Oscars coming up in less than a month, it seems like the issue of “celebrity” trademarks is a hot topic in the media.  For example, many news outlets (such as here, here, here) are covering Meryl Streep’s application to register her name.  Her application (Serial No. 87765571) was submitted last month for a variety of services, including entertainment services, personal appearances, speaking engagements, and autograph signings.

It has become increasingly common for celebrities to seek federal trademark registrations for their names, often in connection with entertainment services, to provide greater protection and enforcement ability against authorized third-party uses.

Another recent example is Sean Connery’s application to register his name (Reg. No. 5015683), which was covered in the news over the past couple years.  He had to overcome some obstacles, including two Office Actions rejecting his specimens of use (here and here), but he was finally able to reach registration after submitting a third substitute specimen.

Interestingly, trademark rules and precedent allow registration of personal names as inherently distinctive, without the need to show “acquired distinctiveness” (i.e., evidence, such as longtime exclusive use, showing consumers recognize the mark as a unique source indicator).  This rule differs from the common law rule, in which acquired distinctiveness is required. Christopher Brooks, 93 U.S.P.Q.2d 1823 (TTAB 2009); McCarthy on Trademarks §13:2; TMEP § 1301.02(b).  It also differs from the bar against registering mere surnames (i.e., just the last name, rather than the full name), without acquired distinctiveness. TMEP §1211.01.

Nevertheless, it makes sense to take advantage of this unique rule for federal registration of personal names, if there is a good business reason for doing so–which there often is for celebrities.

What do you think about trademark registration for personal names?  Do you think celebrities have gone too far with trademark applications in connection with their name (see a list here)? For example, Taylor Swift has over 50 trademark registrations for her name or her initials.

Any predictions for the biggest winners at the Oscars? (I’m betting Shape of Water wins Best Picture and Best Director.)

Recently capturing this Accenture billboard in the Minneapolis airport, I couldn’t help but be struck by how far the Accenture brand has moved from its previously prized spokesperson and celebrity Tiger Woods, apparently just in time for Tiger’s recent rebound on the golf courseI’ll refrain from calling it a comeback. I’m not sure where his personal brand and endorsement position stands at the moment, so others with views on that topic, please chime in.

With respect to the billboard ad, yeah, candy is sweet, but it’s also predictably an edible inanimate object of no nutritional value that might even rot your teeth if you’re not careful. But, at least it can’t say or do things that might embarrass clients or executives.

Here are a few items to refresh your memory from the DuetsBlog vault on the subject of Accenture’s connection with Tiger Woods and the Tiger personal brand:

(1) Irreparable Harm to the Accenture Brand?

(2) Accenture’s New Ad Campaign: Elephants, Frogs, & Tiger, Oh My!

(3) Tiger’s Personal Brand of Apology?

And, how did the predictions of our guest bloggers go? You be the judge:

(1) Don’t Expect This to Have Tiger by the Tail…

(2) The Roar of Tiger Woods in Branding

Your thoughts on the subject?

-Jason Voiovich, jasonvoiovich@gmail.com

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jasonvoiovich
Follow Jason on Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/jasonvoiovich

As a parent, it’s tempting to read the story of Jay-Z and Beyonce “trademarking” their child and wish we could turn back time and convince them both to use birth control.  However, when we put aside some initial discomfort, we can see that the trademark makes business sense.  Because what is the point of a trademark? To protect something of value.  As the spawn of nearly a billion dollars of marketing muscle, protecting the Blue Ivy™ brand is a wise investment.

Estimated Brand Value JayZ
Estimate brand value singer/actor Beyonce
Estimated Brand Value of Blue Ivy
Interesting Questions:

I am using an “Income Approach” brand valuation methodology, which relies on physical and tangible assets.  Obviously however, brands have tremendous “intangible value.”  The question we would need to ask is this: With an average entertainer salary earning roughly $46,000 annually according to SimplyHired.com, how much of this additional value is dependent on the “brand” and not necessarily musical talent? (I think the method is a pretty good proxy for celebs.  Dead celebs like Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson?  That might be a different story.)

With much less than half of their income derived from their music, should we even call Jay-Z a “rapper” or Beyonce a “singer”? (Probably not.)

On the other hand, is the “music” the crux of the value of the brand itself? (Probably yes.)

Did I just perpetuate the creepiness by assigning brand value to a little girl? (I was afraid of that…)

Does she make a case for the cutest kid ever? (Yep.  She’s a doll.)

For More Fun:

Why else might the two pop icons want to protect their little girl?  Read up on the legal angle.

Visit Interbrand for more information and case studies on brand valuation.

Want to be a rock star?  Most live near the poverty line. http://www.simplyhired.com/a/salary/search/q-Entertainers

 http://www.paywizard.org/main/VIPPaycheck/male-musicians-salaries

More than you ever needed or wanted to know about Jay-Z and Beyonce on Wikipedia.

I recently blogged about Trademarks held by and registered to the Kardashians. Another popular reality show isJersey Shore” that follows the lives of eight twenty-something roommates initially at the Jersey Shore (hence the name of the show), but also living in Miami and Italy during seasons 2 and 4. They are known for their partying, tanning, boozing and hooking up.  They have even developed their own language, including introducing the terms creeping, smooshing and guidos. In addition, the acronym “GTL” was created by Jersey Shore roommate Michael Sorriento (“The Situation”)—a shorthand symbol for his daily routine: “Gym, Tan, Laundry.” His company (with his brother) MPS Entertainment LLC obtained trademark registrations for “GTL” and “GTL finder”, and “GTL University” and likely others, as trademarks. 

GTL Fuel, LLC (“GTL Fuel”) filed trademark applications for “GTL Fuel” in connection with energy drinks and plastic tubes for packaging non-alcoholic drinks in test tube containers. It has obtained a trademark registration for GTL Fuel in connection with energy drinks. 

The Situation’s company has sued GTL Fuel for trademark infringement, unfair competition, among other things. The Complaint contends that GTL Fuel has been engaged in developing and marketing “products to fuel your GTL life,” including gym products, tanning products, laundry products, energy shots, bronzers, tanning lotions, and shampoos among other things. The Situation’s company contends that GTL Fuel is infringing on its trademarks and attempting to associate its products with the Situation and Jersey Shore. The Complaint alleges that GTL Fuel’s Facebook page only has two other pages it “Likes” – a cancer site and “DJ Pauly D” who is a Jersey Shore roommate of the Situation. Accordingly, the Complaint alleges that “it is apparent that GTL Fuel was created to capitalize upon the goodwill of Plaintiff’s Mark and the Mark’s association with [the Situation], and to illegally profit off of the use of the Mark in commerce.”

I have written a couple prior blogs about lawsuits where Facebook is a party. Facebook is not only involved as a party to lawsuits but is also a place where trademark holders can find evidence of others infringing on their trademarks. Other social media such as Twitter is another fertile ground for evidence of trademark infringement. Indeed, GTL Fuel announced a “Guido contest” in connection with its energy drink. This too appears to be a way for the company to link itself to the Situation and his Jersey Shore compatriots—as they often use the term on the show. 

The Kardashians and Jersey Shore roommates will likely not be the only reality stars filing for trademarks. As this new genre of television is so popular and capitalizes on marketing their brands, disputes regarding reality show related trademarks are likely to continue popping up.