ARE YOU PROTECTING THE “ROYALTY” VALUE IN YOUR NAME OR THAT OF YOUR PRODIGY?

“Yaaaaassss Queen!” – after 8 years of fighting, Queen Bey(oncé) has finally won the legal battle against a wedding planner from Massachusetts to trademark her daughter’s name—Blue Ivy Carter™.

One might ask, “Why should we care about yet another celebrity’s life drama? First world problems, right?” Well, yes and no – Queen Bey’s “drama” actually serves as an excellent illustration of the monetary value associated with names and there is a lot that celebrities, sports stars and agents can learn from her image management and general IP savviness. She’s a smart cookie, so she’s the proud owner of a number of trademarks which include her own name and nicknames Queen Bey™, Yonce™ and Beyhive™ because she knows the monetary value of her image.

So, what happened in the Blue Ivy case?

Briefly, a wedding planner from Massachusetts by the name of Veronica Morales owns a company which goes by the name of “Blue Ivy Events”. According to her, it was registered before “Blue Ivy Carter” was even conceived. When Queen Bey applied to trademark Blue Ivy Carter in a number of classes, an opposition was immediately filed on the allegation that it would cause confusion amongst the general public that the two marks are related. Morales alleged that Queen Bey™ had no bona fide intention of commercialising the trademark and was only applying to block others from using the name.

On the 6th of July, the American Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that there was “no evidence suggesting they [the marks] are related in a manner that would give rise to the mistaken belief that they emanate from the same source.”

One can only speculate as to whether Morales was merely piggyback marketing—after all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? 😉

Why would Queen Bey even want to register her child’s name as a trademark? Isn’t that kind of pretentious?

Admittedly, it is a tad pretentious, but the concept runs far deeper than that. Celebrities’ images hold a lot of commercial value and there are a plethora of opportunists out there waiting to piggyback the newest trend, especially in the age of the social media influencer. With the birth of Blue Ivy, a number of phoneys would have jumped at the opportunity to name a line of baby products after her. And who knows, perhaps in the future, Blue Ivy™ might want to name her own clothing line, perfume, or charity after herself? If Queen Bey™ hadn’t intervened when she did, Blue Ivy’s name could have been exploited for its commercial value and to her own disadvantage.

Wondering if you should register your or your prodigy’s name as a trademark?

Before you draw inspiration from Queen Bey™—stop right there, (plain) Jane! If your name is commonly used, you’re not using it in business and it has little, if any royalty value then registering it isn’t for you. However, if you are distinctive and well-known and you haven’t trademarked your name, you might want to begin to contemplate it!

Although South Africa’s image rights laws are languishing far behind the global “brand” wagon, it’s still vital for businesses and brand managers to appreciate the value of image rights and how they can be used to protect endorsement value. Image rights aren’t just first world problems—infringement can affect anyone anywhere on the planet.

Just take a look at the High Court case Kumalo v Cycle Lab (Pty) Ltd for a proudly South African example. Cycle Lab tried to use Basetsana’s (affectionately known as “Bassie”) image to endorse some of their products without her consent. The court found that Bassie’s image had been used in a misleading way and awarded Bassie damages.

(P.S. If you haven’t read our article “What’s in a name?” follow the link to find out more about image rights in South Africa and associated royalty income.)

Being a brand slayer like Beyoncé requires foresight, awareness, and taking advantage of opportunities. So why don’t you contact us to help you with all your image rights and trademark needs. We can even help you externalise your image rights and trademarks to other jurisdictions in order to mitigate taxation and globalise your brand!

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