Can You Trademark Your Name?

Can You Trademark Your Name?

Can you trademark your name?

The short answer is yes, you can trademark your name. However, there are certain requirements set forth in the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) that limit what names are trademarkable.

According to the TEMP 1301.02(b), “personal names (actual names and pseudonyms) of individuals or groups function as marks only if they identify and distinguish the services recited and not merely the individual or group.”1

To determine whether the name of person is granted registration the Trademark Office will consider whether the mark is “used in a manner that would be perceived by purchasers as identifying the services in addition to the character or person.”2 If the name is just used to identify the person, then registration will not be granted. However, if the applicant can provide a specimen showing that the name is used in connection with some type of good or service, then absent other grounds for registration, the Trademark Office is more likely to allow the mark.

For example, the Trademark Office denied registration to the mark LEE TREVINO on grounds that the mark was used to identify the individual, a professional golfer, who performs or will perform the services claimed, rather than as a mark used to identify the services. In re Lee Trevino Enters., 182 USPQ 253 (TTAB 1974). In contrast, the Trademark Office accepted the marks BRITNEY SPEARS in class 41 for entertainment services, SARAH PALIN in classes 35 and 41 for information about political services, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER in class 5 for dietary and nutritional supplements, and TONY ROBBINS in classes 9 and 41 for recordings in the field of personal improvement and educational services.

In essence, in order to register your personal name your name needs to have acquired some distinctiveness that causes the public to associate your name with the related goods or services you are filing for rather than just associating the name with you as an individual. Acquiring distinctiveness can take time though, which is why typically only celebrities, athletes, and public figures are able to successfully trademark their personal names.

An interesting scenario comes about when two people who share the same name both want to obtain a trademark their name. First, the Trademark Office will accept identical marks if there is no likelihood of confusion between the marks. If the two people are providing dissimilar services, the there is a lower chance of causing confusion between the identical names. Second, as discussed above, the name needs to have acquired distinctiveness such that the public identifies the name with a service or good and not just the person to whom the name belongs.

ARC IP Law is well versed in all areas of Trademark Law and can assist clients who want to protect their name in relation to their business.

Danna Cotman is the founder of ARC IP Law and has years of experience registering, enforcing and protecting trademarks.