Intellectual property has been thrust into the limelight recently with a growing number of trademark disputes and registrations coming to light. If you have created a work there are a variety of options available to protect your creative effort and to ensure you reap the benefits of your labour: Trademarks protect brands and logos, whereas copyright protects artistic or literary creations and designs protect the shape or configuration of a product.
Trademarks in particular are indicators of origin and can include anything from words, sounds, logos, colours or a combination of them all. As long as your mark is not offensive, misleading, commonplace or non-distinctive, it can be registered.
For decades now, there has been a misconception regarding trademarks. The common belief is that trademarks can only be used by brands, but this is now not the case. Celebrities have begun registering trademarks that have to do with their personalities and their stardom.
Reality TV stars like the Kardashian family have amassed a staggering 716 trademark applications to their name; including “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”, “Kimoji”, “Yeezy”, “Kylie Cosmetics” and they have even registered their children’s names.
It is not just reality TV stars who have jumped on the trademarking bandwagon: in 2011, Charlie Sheen moved to trademark a portfolio of 22 of his catchphrases, but actually only succeeded with “Winning!”. Moreover, he registered his name, signature and undeniable gravelly voice.
Bizarrely, Taylor Swift has even managed to trademark and protect her cats’ names; “Benjamin Button”, “Meredith Grey” and “Olivia Benson”. In addition, Taylor has also acquired the rights to use some of her famous song lyrics, for example “This Sick Beat” and “Party like its 1989”, for merchandise.
Many famous faces of the sporting world have also taken advantage of their fame: former New York Knicks basketball player Jeremy Lin has filed the term “Linsanity”, used to characterise his rapid rise to NBA stardom. Footballers have found a way to profit from their unique goals celebrations by trademarking them including the heart symbol Gareth Bale forms when he scores a goal, Lionel Messi’s salute to his grandmas and Christiano Ronaldo’s iconic celebration. Every time Micheal Buffer utters his famous catchphrase “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble”, he earns a staggering $5million.
Even though there have been many successful registrations, a few attempts by celebrities have failed. Recently Cardi B’s attempted to trademark the phrase “okurr” which was then refused by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office as it is a common place term. Another well-known term “You’re Fired” was unsuccessfully appropriated by Donald Trump in 2004 following his stint on the American Apprentice.
But why are celebrities trademarking everything they can? The simple answer is to protect their personal brands, innovation and creativity as to capitalise on every little aspect their celebrity status. Registrations prevent others from using and profiting from your creative efforts, but in the unfortunate case of infringement, trademark protection imposes legal ramifications allowing for action to be taken to claim damages for the losses caused by the infringement. Harley Davidson, for example was awarded £15.3m ($19.2m) in damages from SunFrog.com when they infringed the famous “Bar and Shield Logo” on customised clothing. Kim Kardashian, on the other hand, has recently won £2.1m ($2.7m) in damages from Missguided USA after she accused them off copying and selling her designs whilst profiting from her stardom.
The process for applying for a trademark is to complete a simple and easy online application form. After this form is filed, you will receive feedback from the Intellectual Property Office. If there are no objections to your application, the mark is registered and published in the Trademark Journal. Even though there is a registration fee (£170 in the UK), the potential benefit of future profit and licensing rights outweighs the initial costs.
If celebrities are trademarking everything, let’s do the same. These examples show that there is an opportunity to benefit from every little creation be it the most obscure phrase or a cat’s name. So, if you are thinking of registering a mark, what are you waiting for?