Posted on Tuesday 4 July 2017 by Cruickshank Intellectual Property

Apple, Coca Cola, Nike, Starbucks are all companies that need no explanation on what they do. Why? Because their name alone provides you with all the information you need. Their efficient use of branding and developing their trademark identity has seen these companies become the most widely recognised businesses in the world. So, what is it that have made their trademarks so powerful?

The Trade Marks Act 1996 defines trademarks as “any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.” With any trademark consisting of “words (including personal names), designs, letters, numerals or the shape of goods or their packaging.”

Once a trademark is registered, it embodies an exclusive right to the holder for use of the mark for classes of goods or services, granting a certain degree of protection against infringement. A trademark carries value, it’s used as a marketing tool and through use of licensing can become a huge source of revenue, making it a valuable business asset. A trademarks function is to identify goods and or services for the consumer so that the consumer can identify these goods or services from one entity to that of another. Trademarks act as tools that are necessary for maintaining goodwill and reputation that they acquire through use of their mark. By employing clever marketing and branding strategies a business can establish itself as a powerful, recognised entity. Apple products for example are quickly recognised due to their distinct apple logo, Coca Cola have ascertained their identity with their famous contour bottle shape, emblazoned with its red and white Coca Cola logo.

While companies like these possess powerful trademarks, they have also employed strenuous endeavours and heavy legal actions to maintain protection to their companies’ brand. Despite the negative attention such lawsuits garner, there is no denying the global impact these companies have had and the effective weight of their name.

The rise of celebrity trademarked names is another interesting concept. While the trademarking of stage names and catchphrases from various celebrities is not new, the trademarking of their children’s names is an area which has been gaining momentum in the last number of years. Victoria Beckham, Beyoncé and JayZ being the more popular examples which have garnered media attention right up until recently with the announcement that Beyoncé has already filed for trademark protection for her new-born twins.

While many argue that this type of trademark application is an abuse of intellectual property law and nothing more than a blatant attempt to capitalise on their children, others view it as a clever business decision and a form of brand protection. The explosion of celebrity culture has seen an almost infatuation with who are perceived as famous and media channels are constantly feeding us information to encourage and develop such obsession.  It is now seen that there is a distinct selling power of celebrities’ children which can be made into a marketable brand. In the case of Beyoncé and Jay Z, following the birth of their first child Blue Ivy, two individuals had filed to register the name within days of her birth. While these filings were rejected by the USPTO, it was following this apparent attempt to capitalise on their child that Beyoncé instructed her own company BGK Trademark Holdings to file a ‘intent to use’ trademark application covering 14 trademark classes. The goods and services claimed within the trademark application included baby carriages, diaper bags, baby changing tables and crib blankets. However, there has been an ongoing court battle since this filing where a New England party planning company that own the rights to the name ‘Blue Ivy’ for event planning services, filed an opposition to Beyoncé’s application. Considering the attempts to register Blue Ivy’s name by members of the public may have prompted the Carter’s to file an application so quickly after the birth of their twins.

Though many may be quick to dismiss the dominance of celebrity culture, there is no way of ignoring it either. While the companies mentioned earlier have turned their brands into huge commercial success stories and gained worldwide recognition they have in turn spent millions to do so. Celebrities on the other hand have instant yet transient appeal, seeking protection for their brand has become increasingly necessary and as this culture continues their names have become more valuable than we ever thought possible. It in turn echoes the importance of filing for trademark protection and how valuable your trademark registration can be, whether you are a start-up company, an established business, a multi-national corporation or even a celebrity.