The TV show The Apprentice was one of the biggest hits in history, with 20 million views each episode. It also set Donald Trump’s image as an entrepreneur and featured his catchphrase, “You’re fired.” The catchphrase was used to eliminate contestants from the show, and Trump had intentions to start using the popular slogan on his merchandise. In 2004, Trump tried to trademark the catchphrase, but the application was then dismissed by the attorneys of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for sounding too similar to 'You're Hired', a board game made by Franklin Learning.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z
Since their daughter Blue was born, Beyoncé and Jay-Z have worked to secure trademarks of their daughter’s name for everything, including books, shampoos, video games, and more. The couple had no intention of creating products under these trademarks but wanted to prevent others from using the name. Before Jay-Z and Beyoncé submitted their application to trademark their children’s names, two other people tried to claim the trademark for “Blue Ivy Carter”. The USPTO quickly dismissed these applications, as in order to be able to trademark somebody’s name, you must be able to prove a genuine affiliation. Still, the existence of these applications proves some celebrities might consider protecting their children’s names through intellectual property rights against misuse of their names for commercial profit.
Usain Bolt, still the world record holder in two of track’s biggest events, has applied for a trademark of his iconic victory pose. The Jamaican sprinter, who swept the 100- and 200-meter races over three Olympics and won eight gold medals overall, is looking to sell clothing and fashion accessories under a logo that looks like the victory pose he made famous. Shape trademarks are an unconventional form of intellectual property that is becoming more prominent in recent years. Bolt submitted his application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for the logo in connection with products, including jewellery, purses, sunglasses, shoes and sporting goods.
Immensely famous pop star Taylor Swift does not only hold countless awards and musical praise, but also an impressive portfolio of trademarks. As of right now, Taylor Swift has filed over 350 trademark applications. Some of them include song lyrics and names on Taylor’s 1989 album, such as ‘Nice to meet you, where you been?’, ‘This sick beat’, ‘Blank Space’, ‘Players gonna play’, ‘Shake it off’, ‘And I’ll write your name’, ‘A girl named girl’ (a novel Taylor penned when she was young), ‘T.S. 1989’, ‘The 1989 World Tour’ and ‘Party like it’s 1989’. But perhaps the most surprising trademarks within this portfolio are the names of her cats - “Meredith & Olivia Swift”, “Meredith, Olivia & Benjamin Swift” have all been successfully trademarked.
Emeril Lagasse, the award-winning Creole chef with a dozen restaurants to his name, has appeared on multiple shows and established a range of catchphrases associated with his name, such as "Pork Fat rules", "Kick it up a notch", "Feel the love" and "Spice it up". Of all his phrases, however, "BAM!" became the most popular. Used to punctuate everything from a stir to addition of spices, it became his signature word. In 2000, he registered the trademark for BAM! under the name of his culinary company Emeril's Food of Love LLC. The trademark allows him to use the famous word on his popular lines of foods, spices and cookware. Other trademarks do include "Bam" in some form, but only Emeril's has the added exclamation point, which made it distinct enough at the time to be registered with USPTO.
Kylie's company, Kylie Jenner Inc., owns 179 trademark applications/registrations, with the first trademark registration dating back to 2011 for "KENDALL & KYLIE" for various clothing items. In April 2015, Jenner attempted to register the mark "KYLIE" in the US with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for "advertising services" and "endorsement services". This application, however, received opposition from Kylie Minogue, as she claimed that the trademark could create "confusion" and possibly hurt Minogue's brand.
Kim Kardashian attempted to register a trademark for her new line of shape wear under the name of Kimono. This attempt was viewed as cultural appropriation of a traditional Japanese robe-like garment, the history of which can be traced back to year 700. #KimOhNo has become trending hashtag, with the general public discouraging Kim Kardashian West from going forward with her plan. The end result was a public relations nightmare for Kim Kardashian West that eventually led to her abandoning the trademark registration attempt for Kimono.
The main goal of trademark registration is to protect businesses from others using their intellectual property in bad faith. Celebrities are no exception, as they are trying to expand their personal brand through trademark protection. In fact, given the wide array of attributes that have been successfully trademarked, it would not be unreasonable to predict that celebrities will continue to submit more eclectic and creative filings in the future.