A Prince clothing line? It seems as though the management company for the music icon, who died last week at age 57, may have had plans for a clothing collection of sorts. Case in point: Paisley Park Enterprises, Prince’s main business company, filed to federally register the musician’s name in a couple of classes of goods, including Class 25, which covers clothing.
Interestingly, Paisley Park’s Class 25 application names the following goods: “Bathrobes, beachwear, belts, boots, bottoms, coats, dresses, footwear, gloves, hats, headbands, headwear, jackets, jeans, jerseys, long-sleeved shirts, pajamas, pants, polo shirts, pullovers, sandals, scarves, shirts, shoes, short-sleeved or long-sleeved t-shirts, shorts, skirts, slippers, socks, sweat pants, sweaters, sweatshirts, swimwear, t-shirts, tank tops, tops, trousers, underclothing, underwear, vests, wristbands, featuring the images, words, designs, lyrics, name, or likeness of the famous musician, recording and performing artist known as Prince.”
As for whether the specific clothing-centric trademark would have been used for a standalone Prince clothing collection or a more tour merchandise-type of approach is unclear. However, evidence certainly weighs more heavily in favor of the latter. For instance, it is worth noting that Prince toured rather consistently leading up to his death. His most recent concert took place at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta just a week before his death as part of his “Piano & A Microphone” tour, which kicked off in Australia in February and was scheduled to include shows in New Zealand, California, Canada, Europe, and other U.S. cities. Such an intense touring schedule suggests that the trademark may have been used for tour merchandise, a booming industry all its own. As recently noted by BoF columnist Robert Cordero:
Amid dwindling album sales, driven by massive technological disruption, and the rising importance of live concerts, tour ‘merch’ (as it’s known in the business) has become a more significant part of the business models, setting off a race amongst top acts like Justin Bieber, Kanye West and Rihanna to elevate their offering.
“Concert ‘merch’ has just become part of the multimedia experience and another way for really smart artists to continue to monetize their brands, as more people stream music and the music industry looks for other avenues to bring in revenue,” says Jian DeLeon, streetwear expert and senior menswear editor at WGSN.
This is the most likely answer. While the late icon was certainly known for his personal style and his amazing ability to take predominantly feminine elements – think: ruffles, sequins, lace, and high heels – and feminine silhouettes, and make them all his own, there has never been any significant talk of his desire to turn fashion designer. It seems this move is left more squarely fitted for rappers.
WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE PRINCE TRADEMARK?
Just days before Prince’s death, the aforementioned application – which aims to protect the “Prince” name in classes 25 (for clothing) and 41 (which includes “Entertainment in the nature of live performances by a musical artist, musical band, or musical group”) – was approved for publication. As you may know, before a trademark may be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) (and enforced by a trademark holder on a nationwide basis, as opposed to on a state-by-state basis), a number of requirements must be satisfied. For example, the mark must be published for opposition in the Official Gazette, a weekly publication of the USPTO. This means “the USPTO will send a notice of publication to the applicant stating the date of publication. After the mark is published in the Official Gazette, any party who believes it may be damaged by registration of the mark has thirty days from the publication date to file either an opposition to registration or a request to extend the time to oppose. An opposition is similar to a proceeding in a federal court, but is held before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. If no opposition is filed or if the opposition is unsuccessful, the application enters the next stage of the registration process.”
So, does Prince’s death affect the existing application, you ask? The answer seems to be a clear yes and no. Because trademark rights are based on actual usage of the mark in commerce, the Class 25/clothing aspect is likely in the clear, assuming that Prince’s estate/management company continue to offer Prince-themed apparel for sale or license the right to use his name in connection with apparel. The Class 41/live entertainment aspect, however, is problematic, as Prince is no longer touring – for obvious reasons.
As of now, the mark has yet to be amended by Paisley Park to no longer include the “live entertainment” class of goods/services (chances are, the team is a bit busy at the moment). As for whether the application will be opposed by, say, Prince Tennis, which makes apparel, or other similarly named companies, we will see over the next 30 days or so.
Per WIPR, “Paisley Park Enterprises already owns 50 trademarks related to the late artist. Others include ‘Purple Rain’, ‘Minneapolis Sound’ and ‘Prince and The Revolution’, referencing the name of his band. Also listed is the symbol &Y’, ‘Fingerprince’ and ‘Musicology’. The company also owns trademarks for the term ‘Prince’ covering goods such as stickers, posters and books.” And don't forget "Purpleaxxe," the trademark protected term that refers to Prince's design patented "keytar," the "ornamental design for portable electronic keyboard musical instrument," which was issued to Prince on July 26, 1994.