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Celebrity Trademark Registration - Palin, Assange: Who's Next?

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Thursday June 23, 2011 at 5:37pm
Since bursting onto the political scene three years ago, Sarah Palin has had her share of beltway bustups. Add to these a recent sideshow at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (based in Alexandria, Virginia – within the confines of the metonymic Washington Beltway).

Palin, along with her daughter Bristol, is attempting to protect her name as a registered trademark.

The applications caught the attention of politicos, pundits and trademark lawyers when it came to light that Sarah and Bristol had forgotten to sign the forms giving their consent to have their names as trade marks.

Apparently, the issue has now been fixed; the applications have received USPTO approval and were published for opposition in May.

The issue of signed consent is a particular requirement under US trade mark law for famous individuals seeking to protect their name by way of trademark registration.

Seeking trademark protection for celebrity names has become standard practice.

Trade mark law is part of the bundle of rights that enable famous people to commercialise their reputations by endorsing breakfast cereals and selling licensed merchandise action figures. A Sarah Palin action figure does not seem to be in the offing which is rather surprising. I guess it might look something like this. Alas, Governor Palin’s application covers only two service classes – for “a website featuring information about political issues” and “motivational speaking services in the field of politics, culture, business and values.”

Daughter Bristol’s application only claims a single class, for “motivational speaking services in the field of life choices.” Whether one finds the young mother’s entreaties for abstinence motivational is a matter of personal taste, and perhaps magnanimity. It is a shame about the action figures though;

I would have loved to pit the miniature Palins against my Obama action figure (Google it!). I might have thrown a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle into the mix as well.

Regardless of your rooting interest in the above-referenced melee (which may or may not mirror your political inclinations), this episode demonstrates both the value of a strong trademark registration and the potential complications that arise when developing such rights.

It is a pity that the specifications were quite so limited and we would have thought that considerably wider specs would have been justified.

In addition to commercial endorsement and similar opportunities, celebrities are also using trademark registration as a means of attempting to control the media exposure of their name and their views as is exemplified by the application for registered trademark status by Julian Assange.

So, who’s next? Are you feeling famous? .....Well, are you?


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