Celebrity trademark registration is big business. Just ask the Kardashian family, who between them own nearly 700 marks for everything from children’s clothing, to cosmetics, to jewelry.

As influencers and personal branding become increasingly important in today’s media culture, a growing number of celebrities are responding by applying for trademarks to preserve the exclusive right to use their names in connection with goods and services. They’re also leveraging the trademark system to protect against the possible future use of their children’s names to promote goods or services.

In one example, just after their daughter was born in January 2012, Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z filed an intent-to-use trademark application to register their daughter’s name, Blue Ivy Carter, in connection with a wide variety of goods and services including skin care products, keychains, phone cases, books, strollers, mugs, playing cards, and online video games.  (That particular application was abandoned, but re-filed in 2016.) The USPTO approved their application for BLUE IVY CARTER, but registration is opposed by the owner of a company called Blue Ivy, which holds a prior registration for BLUE IVY for wedding and event planning services and claims use of the mark as early as 2009, well before the birth of Blue Ivy Carter. The owner of Blue Ivy claims that use and registration of BLUE IVY CARTER for the identified goods and services will cause confusion with the BLUE IVY mark.  

Related: Did You Get Punk’d By a Trademark Spammer or Patent Troll? 

Blue Ivy also claims that Beyoncé and Jay-Z never intended to use BLUE IVY CARTER in connection with the identified goods and services, which is a requirement when filing an intent-to-use trademark application.  In the opposition proceeding, Blue Ivy pointed to interviews in which Jay-Z has stated that he was aware of people trying to make money off his daughter’s name, but he didn’t want anyone to benefit from her name.  The trademark system is not designed to prevent unauthorized use in this way. Trademarks exist to protect words or phrases that are or will actually be used in connection with goods and services, not to provide a monopoly on an identifier or phrase that is never going to be used commercially.  

So, the dispute over registration of BLUE IVY CARTER continues.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z are not the only celebrities using trademarks to protect their children’s names or the perceived economic value attached to those names. David and Victoria Beckham, for example, hold trademarks for their names and their children’s names in the U.K. and Europe.  The Kardashian family, in particular, have been actively filing trademark applications, not only for their names and their children’s names, but also for variations of their children’s names. Even Meryl Streep, not as active as the Kardashians on social media, owns a trademark registration for MERYL STREEP issued in 2018 in connection with entertainment services like personal appearances and providing a website with motion picture content.

Related: Hashtags, Memes and Emojis: The Landscape of IP on Social Media 

Many celebrities see potential in personal branding and the value of their unique names, and see an opportunity to leverage the trademark system to capitalize on branding trends.  They may not know for certain that they want to pursue the branding opportunities associated with their names or their children’s names, but they also do not want others taking advantage of them. 

Celebrity trademark filings frequently raise issues with respect to whether a celebrity has a genuine intent-to-use the name as a trademark and the potential likelihood of confusion with existing marks — which are not particularly unique legal questions, but garner more publicity with the celebrity connection. 

For Beyoncé, the Kardashians, and other celebrities, the trademark system is another tool to help them stake out their personal branding space and to defend it.