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kylie rights to a name

Kylie v. Kylie: Who Has Rights To A Name?

By John DiGiacomo

Since celebrities realized that they could capitalize on their names and personas, they have tried to cultivate, protect, and display certain images that are associated with them. While this is not a new practice, trademarking one’s own name is. Kylie Jenner, an affluent 18-year-old socialite who has created an empire of products and appearances based on her image, has sought trademark protection of her first name. Kylie Minogue, an Australian singer, songwriter, and actress, has filed a notice of opposition to Kylie Jenner’s application. Two well-known stars are now fighting over the rights to a somewhat-common name, Kylie.

Can People Trademark Their Name?

In short, yes they can. If an individual wants to protect a name, then the individual only needs to prove that the term has gained secondary meaning. Secondary meaning is the ability for consumers to recognize a mark in connection with a specific company or person. Kylie Jenner, without doubt, has established meaning to her full name and anything associated with it. But has she created enough consumer recognition with just the name “Kylie?”

According to Kylie Minogue, the answer is no. Kylie Minogue has created an empire of her own in Australia and worldwide since the late 70’s, and already has rights to many trademarks of her own. Last month, Minogue filed an opposition to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) stating that Jenner should not be given rights to the mark “Kylie.”

What is an Opposition?

After the USPTO has allowed a trademark, the office will publish the mark and allow others the chance to oppose the mark if they have substantial reason. In the opposition, Minogue claims that there would be a likelihood of confusion with her own mark “KYLIE” and that she has rights of first use. As supporting reason, the opposition goes on to call Jenner a “supporting character” on Keeping Up With the Kardashians and bolsters Minogue’s own recognition among the consuming public. The UPSTO will examine Minogue’s claims for any merit and rule accordingly. If either side is displeased with the ruling, it is likely to be appealed and taken to court.

Doesn’t Right of Publicity Protect This?

Right of publicity, or personality rights, is the right of an individual to control the commercial component of his or her image, name, likeness, or unequivocal aspects of their identity. Protections are given to individuals who have created some sort of feature or recognition of themselves through these rights of publicity. However, both Kylies have approached this from a more extreme position. Because the name “Kylie” could mean anyone, both of these celebrities desired extra protection against others who wish to ride on the weight that their names have garnered. By gaining this new level of protection, both Minogue and Jenner will be protected from infringement on a greater level than the right of publicity usually offers.

Jenner and Minogue are only a few of many celebrities who are attempting to trademark their names and phrases. Donald Trump’s “You’re fired,” Beyonce’s attempt to trademark her daughter’s name “Blue Ivy,” and Emeril Lagasse’s “BAM!” are only a few examples of celebrities attempting to protect their brand. As the USPTO examines Minogue’s opposition, many fans have weighed in on the issue in hopes of aiding their favorite celebrity.

If you have questions about trademark protections, Revision Legal can help. Get in touch with us online or by calling 855 473 8474.


Image credit to Flickr user Eva Rinaldi.

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