Whether you call her Hip Hop royalty or the next generation of stardom, on January 7th 2012 Jay –Z and Beyonce welcomed their first child, a daughter named Blue Ivy Carter. At just 4 days old, Blue Ivy Carter was the youngest person to appear on the Billboard Charts with the sweet melody of her cries on her father’s song titled Glory. But is she the youngest person to have a clothing line named after her?
On January 11th 2012, fashion designer Joseph Mbeh filed for a trademark application with the USPTO for the mark BLUE IVY CARTER NYC for “Infant, toddler and junior clothing namely, t-shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, jeans, belts, hats, caps, sweaters, fleece pullovers, jogging suits, coats, scarves, bodysuits, socks, sleepwear, undergarments, boots, sandals and athletic footwear”. This application is the first application from Mbeh of any kind to the USPTO. Mbeh listed his clothing line as first use and in commerce on January 9th, just 2 days after this mega superstar baby was born.
There are a few questions that arise with this application filing. The first, do celebrities and their offspring have automatic right to their name? And the second being, is this unfair capitalizing on a celebrity’s kid or is it a brilliant idea of beating the parents to the punch?
Celebrities and their children do not have automatic trademark rights to their names. Names and surnames are viewed as descriptive and descriptive marks are not entitled to automatic legal protection. Most superstars have secured registrations for the protection of their names. Both Jay-Z and Beyonce have trademark registrations for their names covering a wide range of goods and services. The Kardashians and the Jenners all have trademark registrations for their names.
Although Blue Ivy Carter does not gain automatic trademark rights for her famous name, it is known that a living person must give consent for the use of their name in a trademark. Mbeh did not seek any sort of permission from The Carter’s before filing an application to use Blue Ivy Carter. In addition, Mbeh has no proof of having the clothing line that bears the name of Blue Ivy Carter prior to the birth of Beyonce’s child. Having proof of use prior to the birth of Blue Ivy could play in Mbeh favor by showing he did not copy the celebrity’s name. Being that Blue Ivy Carter name is a more distinct name than most this may be a tough hurdle for Mbeh to jump.
In a previous, Angelina Jolie clashed with a French perfume marker, Symine Salimpour who went on to register a perfume named Shiloh. Angelina Jolie was outraged with the fact that Symine Salimpour was naming her perfume Shiloh after her daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. The case was dropped by Jolie. Salimpour seem to have gain free fame and proved that in Hebrew, Shiloh means “his gift” and that the perfume will be used to give something back to the children of Israel and the Middle East. However, this is not quite the same argument that could be used in Mbeh defense.
What are your thoughts? Should celebrities have automatic rights to trademark registrations for their names and kid’s names?
Will The Carters oppose the use of their baby’s name? I believe that there will be a strong chance of The Carters going after Mbeh. Although the only way they can oppose the trademark application is by opposition with another trademark application, which the camps of Beyonce or Jay-Z have at this time. The couple can however use the “Right of Publicity”, which protects the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity. I think that Mbeh is definitely using the likeness of Blue Ivy Carter’s name to sell baby clothing.
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