Question: What do Sean Combs, J.K. Rowling, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, and Mark Wahlberg have in common? Two things, actually. First, they are all listed on the Forbes 2017 Celebrity 100 List; second, they all have gone to the trouble of registering their personal names as trademarks with the U.S Trademark Office. Indeed, of the first 20 celebrities on this “A” list, 19 have sought registration of their names as trademarks.
Trademark Protections For Personal Names
Under Federal law, everyone is entitled to seek protection of his or her name as a brand. The Lanham Act expressly provides that:
No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it … consists of or comprises a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual except by his written consent.
As indicated by the language of the statute, in addition to names, likenesses (portraits) and signatures of individuals are entitled to trademark registration. Several well-known entertainers have taken advantage of this right, including Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, and Anthony Hopkins … Keep reading
Part of the fun of trademark practice is its unique overlap with literature, art, science, culture, and psychology. Words and symbols are used as trademarks to identify sources of commercial goods; convey messages to consumers that go beyond their pure literal meaning; and, through a curious alchemy of psychology, repetition, aesthetic attraction, and cultural filtering, somehow evoke brand loyalty, leading consumers to open their wallets. Subtle, but powerful messaging animates buyer behavior.
However, if psychology and/or science were the sole driver of branding campaigns, a lot more marketers would stop trying to find the next catchy phrase or word—”Covfefe,” “Google,” “Yelp“—and instead focus on what subliminal force is most likely to create the strongest bond between the consumer and the manufacturer. Despite smell and sound being the more profound links to human feelings and motivations, marketers rarely do more than play at the edges of these forces—by using a jingle occasionally, for example.
Psychoacoustics and the Associations Created by Sound
We’ve all experienced the sensation of hearing a piece of music, or even a familiar sound, and having it transport us back in time to some experience from our youth. When it happens, … Keep reading
A Teachable Moment in the Way of the TRUMP Brand and Naked Licensing of Trademarks
The current POTUS has a lot of things on his plate right now, and the status of his trademark rights (or, perhaps, more appropriately, the trademark rights of the Trump Organization) around the globe shouldn’t be top of mind. That said, the Trump Organization’s pattern of not controlling the quality of services that are provided under the TRUMP brand provides a teachable moment in the world of trademarks and branding.
The news media have reported repeatedly about the Trump Organization’s penchant for distancing itself from TRUMP-branded projects that have failed, including those in Baja California, and Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as well as developments outside the U.S. in Panama and Azerbaijan, among others. While the details of these projects vary, all of them follow a similar narrative. The Trump Organization involves itself in the promotion of an upcoming TRUMP-branded real estate development, and then, despite hype and ample purchases by willing consumers and investors seeking to own a piece of TRUMP real estate, the project never properly gets off the ground, the developers flee with the deposits, and the purchasers … Keep reading
If you work in marketing, you know what a “brand refresh” is, and how it differs from a “brand relaunch.” Both can be equal parts perilously challenging and thrilling. And both can serve useful purposes, both in reminding customers about a product’s continued existence, and in introducing a product to a new audience as a way of increasing market share.
Legally, most trademark lawyers will face brand refreshes and rebrands with some skepticism. Our traditional view, predicated on legal principles, is that trademarks are easier to enforce and maintain if nothing changes and the branding remains utterly consistent. Making changes that undermine consistency of use can result (albeit rarely) in a loss of rights, or at least a loss in priority. But a skillful refresh is marvelous, not just because it can manage to maintain the tradition (and enforceability) of the original brand, but because seemingly subtle changes to branding can result in profound and novel messages to consumers.
Depending on scope and goals, the result of a refresh can be akin to renovating your house. You might add a new kitchen or a fresh coat of paint, and suddenly something that seemed tired is reborn and reinvigorated. … Keep reading
Anyone who knows me at all knows that I suffer from a terrible affliction called “early adopter syndrome.” I had a cell phone when it really was more of a brick with a speaker and the first smartphone, I can tell you, was not terribly smart at all. There was a lot of staring at the screen waiting for it to bring up a website or a low res photo… As a result of my affliction, there is a veritable cemetery of old devices at my house, all acquired soon after launch.
So now I’ve been hit again – this time with Apple’s… iWatch, er… the Apple Watch. What is that thing called? Officially it’s the “Apple Watch.” A simple name. All business, elegant design, understated but direct. The name fits the device. Just a watch – but it’s not just a watch right? It’s the Apple watch. It’s about as much of a watch as a Tesla vehicle is just a car. Why is a company that has invested so much in the “i” prefix to connote that its devices are “new,” “more,” and “unique” suddenly reverted to referring to its super integrated wrist candy as a mere … Keep reading
I can’t define disparagement, but I know it when I see it…
On Wednesday, June 18, 2014 the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the judicial body that provides review to all Federal trademark filings and disputes relating to such filings, released its second decision to CANCEL the trademark registrations owned by Pro-Football, Inc. and used by the National Football League’s Washington Redskins football team. The decision is interesting for many reasons, legal, political, and socio-cultural. But to me the most bloggable angle is how the media has exploded about the decision in the last couple of days, often misreporting the facts (and the law) and suggesting odd conclusions that purportedly flow from the decision.
CNN proclaimed: “If you want to start selling T-shirts with the Washington Redskins’ logo without permission, you may be in luck.” This unsubstantiated assertion was repeated in other media outlets including Ad Age, which suggested that losing the registrations meant everyone could sell branded items without “fear of reprisal.”
First. False. If the decision of the Office stands, the Redskins team, and Pro-Football will still be able to sell their wares and stop others from doing so. Thousands of unregistered trademark … Keep reading
As the political season in the U.S. heats up and the campaigns continue to hone their messages, the branding of the campaigns and the candidates becomes more visible to a larger portion of the U.S. electorate.
Political campaigns are entertaining and instructive fodder for thinking about the power of branding since, after all, they are the genesis for all things “swag.” Political messaging has provided us with a litter of campaign pins, bumper stickers, mugs and key chains and other give-aways meant to help spread the essential messages of the candidates. These branded collectibles are the archaeological evidence of each campaign’s attempt to sway voters with some essential pith or short message conveyed in words and images.
Each of the buttons to the left had an explicit message, coupled with an express or subliminal message. McGovern was for women, Ike and Dick had a personal commitment to you, Hillary Clinton was Rosie the Riveter, working for change…
What of this year’s imagery? The Romney campaign has adopted a simplified branding consisting of a red, white and blue triple “R” design (Romney, Ryan, Republican?) which is variously used as part of Romney’s name, and as a stand alone logo at … Keep reading