Beyoncé and Jay-Z are continuing the trend of celebrities looking to legally protect their children’s names in order to either capitalize on them or prevent others from doing so. The music industry power couple registered their daughter’s name Blue Ivy Carter as a European Union trademark back in 2012. They were unable to secure a registration in the U.S., where applicants must prove that they are actually using the mark on goods or services before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) will grant a registration.
Not surprisingly, several weeks ago, Beyoncé and Jay-Z applied to register the names of their newborn twins Sir Carter and Rumi Carter as trademarks. As of early this year, they are also giving it another go in attempting to register Blue Ivy’s name, after their first application was shot down by the USPTO for failure to prove they were actually using the mark on products. Considering that the couple is not currently using their children’s names on any products or services, these applications will likely be denied registration, in the U.S., at least.
So, why do so many celebs look to trademark protection for the names of their offspring? Well, there are two primary reasons: The first reason is so that they can derive income from the name (or better yet, the budding brand), either through licensing the name or selling their own products using the trademark.
The second reason is to ensure that a third party does not register the name themselves. While this tactic is problematic in the U.S. because of its use requirement, parties are not required to provide evidence of use in order to obtain a European Union trademark registration. However, failure to use a registered trademark within the five-year period after the registration is issued in the EU can cause the loss of rights for the trademark owner.
The second reason tends to give rise many trademark applications. It is the reason Jay Z says he and Beyoncé attempted to register the Blue Ivy Carter name. The rapper told Vanity Fair in 2013, “People wanted to make products based on our child’s name and you don’t want anybody trying to benefit off your baby’s name. It wasn’t for us to do anything; as you see, we haven’t done anything.”
On the other hand, some well-known figures have looked to trademark protections to build their own brands. David and Victoria Beckham, for instance, have transformed their own names into an international super brand. “Brand Beckham,” as it has been likened by the media, has seen tremendous commercial success, including licensing and endorsement deals with Breitling, Armani, adidas, H&M, and a fragrance collection (among others) for him, and Samantha Thavasa, RocaWear, Armani, Target, Rock & Republic, and Estee Lauder (among others) for her.
It appears that the Beckhams are looking to potentially add their four children to their global brand, as well. In December 2016, they applied to register Brooklyn Beckham, Romeo Beckham, Harper Beckham and Cruz Beckham as trademarks in the EU.
With some of the children already embarking on their own photography and modeling careers, and talk of a children’s line – inspired by Harper – and the relatively low barriers to entry for trademark registration in the European Union, compared to in the U.S., it makes sense that the Beckhams are looking to legal protection for their names. As for Jay Z and Beyoncé, not so much.