Although not many are aware that personal names can be trademarked, such a move is legally permissible as long as the applicant abides by trademark laws. When used for business purposes, a trademarked personal name may be used to add a personal touch and a unique character to a brand. Such trademark registrations are usually filed by those seeking to name their businesses or brands after themselves. Well-known examples of brands named in this way include Papa John’s, Adidas, and Jack Daniel’s.
Some personal names have been subject to acts of trademark infringement. Such infringements occur when the offender attempts to register a personal name without receiving due consent from the person who has trademarked the name. Trademark registration for personal names may prevent other entities from making a profit through the unauthorized use of that person’s name.
How a Personal Name Can Be Trademarked
Those who apply for the trademark registration of a personal name may either choose to register their own names or those of other people. Personal names may be trademarked if they fulfill certain criteria. As is true of any other trademark, a personal name which is to be trademarked must not create the possibility of confusion with either any existing trademarks or pending applications. If the name is one of a living individual who is not the applicant, official consent for the registration must be provided. Additionally, further evidence of the name’s distinctive nature will be required if the name to be trademarked includes a surname.
Just like any other trademark, a personal name which is to be trademarked must serve to identify relevant products or services to be marketed under it. When trademarking another person’s name, the applicant must provide proof that the name will be used as a trademark for business purposes. Applicants should also be aware that registrations which use personal names to defame the named person will almost always be rejected on ethical and moral grounds.
Reasons to Trademark a Personal Name
The most common reason why an applicant trademarks a personal name is to use their own name or that of a connected person for commercial purposes. The trademarking of a personal name may also guard an applicant from cybersquatters. This is because those who would register and use domain names in an unauthorized manner are likely to find it more difficult to do so if a trademarked personal name is involved.
Ownership of a trademarked personal name might provide a business with legitimacy. In most cases, this is especially true if the business owner with the trademarked name is associated with a larger corporate entity. Finally, trademarks which include personal names tend to be more memorable. Statistics show that consumers are around 30% more likely to remember trademarks with names in comparison to those which do not contain a name.
Personal Names and Trademark Infringement
Certain trademark infringement issues may sometimes arise as a result of using a personal name as a trademark. For example, a person who uses a personal name as a trademark might sometimes encounter legal difficulties if a surname is included. If another trademark owner is using a different name with that same surname as a trademark and has accumulated sufficient good will by using it, a trademark infringement lawsuit may be filed.
Another common issue regarding trademark infringement and personal names once again regards surnames. If two different companies of similar business natures trademark and use two different names which have the same surname, one business owner might pursue legal action against the other. The more common the surname, the more likely an act of trademark infringement is to occur.
How Trademarked Personal Names Protect Personal Identities
The trademarking of a personal name can serve as a powerful protective tool over one’s personal identity. Those who believe that their right to privacy might be at risk as a result of their business activities might seek trademark protection for their name. Trademarking a personal name could also deny any would-be impostors the opportunity to assume the identity of the person whose name has been trademarked and subsequently make a profit as a result of using that name.
Trademarking a personal name often guards the relevant person’s right of publicity. The right of publicity denies others the ability to exploit a person’s image, likeness, or name if adequate consent is not provided. Another way by which the trademarking of personal names protects personal identities relates to a person’s attributes as depicted in a photograph or other visual representation. If the named person’s attributes as would be depicted by the applicant would not match those of the real person, the trademarking of the name would prevent the name from being used as such.
This article is brought to you by Exy Intellectual Property Malaysia and Singapore.