For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

MAMA KAT BLUES: PROTECTING OUR BABIES' NAMES

Image: anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This Kat has awoken from a long late winter/early spring nap to finally re-join her fellow Kat bloggers and bring the news of U.S. IP law to the world.  She would further like to express her appreciate to Amerikat for covering the stream of cases coming out of U.S. courts in the past few weeks.   This Kat sincerely apologizes for her long absence - starting up a law firm from scratch, as it turns out, can easily suck  upevery second of a feline’s time, and don’t ever let anybody tell you differently.  
While this Kat’s blog sat blank and waiting to be written, there has been a theme emerging at the U.S. Trademark Office of applications for names of young people.  First, Beyonce Knowles, who this Kat suspects is well-known to readers around the globe, filed a federal trademark application for her brand new baby daughter’s name - BLUE IVY CARTER.  Lots of kitties here in the U.S. chatted about how we really like the name Ivy Blue, but Blue Ivy????  Then, Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the teenager Trayvon Martin who was recently shot and killed under questionable circumstances by a neighborhood watchmen in Florida, filed applications for the slogans “I AM TRAYVON” and “JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON” that have become the rallying cries in the protests against the circumstances that many say led to the murder of Ms. Fulton’s son.  The circumstances here are quite different, of course - the birth of a baby girl and the death of a teenage son, but both events caused the mothers to see a value in protecting the names of their children.  (This Kat should quickly point out that Ms. Fulton has expressly denied seeking any commercial gain from Trayvon’s death.  IPKat in no way intends to criticize the decision to file these applications and truly wishes only peace and comfort to Trayvon’s family).  
Returning to Beyonce for the moment, if BGK Trademark Holdings, the company that manages Beyonce’s trademark portfolio, is successful in its bid for the rather expansive trademark application, Baby Blue will be lending her name and garnering goodwill on products ranging from cosmetics to key chains to baby strollers to flags to video games.  U.S. Kats usually tell our clients, both foreign and domestic, to avoid filing applications in lots of classes (in this case, fifteen) unless they are very sure they will be able to meet the use requirements before the deadline.  Of course, most kitties don’t represent Beyonce, and this Kat suspects that a mere $4875 in filing fees is probably not going to cause her to lose her Hollywood Hills mansion.  Not to mention, if anyone can start a business selling 200 different pieces of inventory in between 6 and 30 months (before the extensions run out at the PTO), it is probably Ms. Knowles.  Certain sites have suggested that the application was a defensive move by Beyonce, but of course, in the United States, pre-emptive trademark applications are not allowed. Here in these parts, it is Use It or Bust.

Image: Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Not surprisingly, a number of other applications appeared from unconnected individuals within minutes of Baby Blue’s birth.  Mr. Joseph Mbeh of New Jersey applied for BLUE IVY NYC on January 11, 2012, just 4 days after the delivery, in connection with infant clothing, but he  abandoned his business model when the PTO cited the well-known doctrine of the “famous infant” against the application.  (This doctrine is in fact not well known under that name, but the U.S. Lanham Act does disallow registration of marks that would bear a false connection to famous individuals, and also disallows registration of the name of a living person without that person’s authorization.)  BLUE IVY CARTER GLORY IV claims to have begun use of the mark in connection with various fragrances and lotions (which of course are always good for baby) on February 14, just six weeks after Beyonce delivered her bundle of joy.  Although CBH by Benton Cothier, LLC, the owner of this application, has not yet received an Office Action from the PTO, this Kat suspects that it is likely to suffer the same fate as Mr. Joseph Mbeh, as Baby Blue has only surely become famous-er in the interim.
Ms. Fulton, who filed applications for JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON and I AM TRAYVON in memory of her son, filed only in connection with digital material featuring information about Trayvon Martin, and this Kat expects to see those DVDs available in bookstores and websites soon enough.  Of course, imitators exist everywhere - Marcus Singletary of Los Angeles filed an application for JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON in connection with hooded sweatshirts (Trayvon was wearing one the night he was killed).  But the application was filed later than Ms. Fulton’s and of course also bears the name of a famous individual.  This Kat chooses not to speculate on whether Mr. Singletary was attempting to profit from the tragedy in Florida, but is confident that the PTO will dispose of the application swiftly and appropriately.
For Mama Kats out there, though, please remember that while protecting your children is of course your top priority, filing trademark applications in the United States with your children’s name simply in order to prevent others from doing so is not the best strategy.  In order to keep your trademark rights here, the name must be used in commerce.  If commerce is what you and your child want, on the other hand, then carry on, Beyonce and Blue, carry on.

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