Intellectual Property Attorney

Fraudulent Name Trademarks: A Comparison Between the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and China (Part I of IV)


Few things are as personal or meaningful as your name. Your surname identifies your family heritage, while your first name identifies you more particularly. For celebrities such as actors and athletes, their name can become something more than personal – their name can become a valuable business commodity. So too, other indicia of their persona – such as their signature, voice or likeness – can become commercially valuable.

Celebrities generally monetize their persona in one or both of two ways:

  • through endorsement / sponsorship agreements; and
  • through the licensing or direct sale of branded goods / services.

In each of these monetization methods, celebrities rely on one key thing: the ability to exclusively control the commercial use made of their persona.

In general, wise celebrities use trademark rights to protect the commercial use of their persona. That being said, trademark rights are territorial, and the laws governing the registration of such persona rights for living persons vary greatly.

Securing trademark rights in a celebrity’s persona can also have other benefits – most notably the ability to prevent consumer confusion. Unauthorized use a celebrity’s name, signature, voice or likeness in connection with a particular product or service can create the false impression that the celebrity has endorsed or is somehow otherwise affiliated with that product or service. In the “worst case” scenario, products or services could be offensive or defective – tarnishing the celebrity’s reputation.

This series of articles explores some of the key differences between the law governing the registration of trademark rights in a living person’s persona in: (i) the United States; (ii) the European Union; (iii) the United Kingdom; and (iv) China; beginning with Part II – European Union and the United Kingdom.

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