On July 15, 2009, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum opened an exhibit commemorating Michael Jackson by displaying his patents and trademarks. The exhibit is hosted at the USPTO building in Alexandria, Virginia. The exhibit features drawings from a patent Michael held (see article: http://blog.patents-tms.com/?p=266) and examples of Michael Jackson’s registered trademarks, including Registration No.: 1,908,209 for the words “MICHAEL JACKSON” on “sound recordings; namely, pre-recorded phonograph records, audio tapes, compact discs, videotapes, and motion picture films featuring music and entertainment.”
The trademark “MICHAEL JACKSON” raises some questions about whether a person can obtain a trademark for his/her name. The short answer is yes: a trademark may be obtained for a person’s name when the name is used or intended to be used in commerce to identify goods and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods or service.
That said, if a proposed mark is not inherently distinctive, it may be registered only upon proof of acquired distinctiveness or “secondary meaning.” The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedures (TMEP) indicates that proof of acquired distinctiveness or “secondary meaning” shows that a mark becomes distinctive as applied to the applicant’s goods or services in commerce. Evidence used to show acquired distinctiveness may be a verified statement “by the applicant that the mark has become distinctive of the applicant’s goods or services by reason of substantially exclusive and continuous use in commerce by the applicant for the five years before the date when the claim of distinctiveness is made.” TMEP 1212.05.
Thus, to register the mark “MICHAEL JACKSON,” Michael may have had to make a statement that his name was distinctive of goods related to the music industry for at least five years prior to filing his trademark application. Then, the trademark office may have registered the mark because “MICHAEL JACKSON” had acquired distinctiveness for goods related to music and entertainment.
Other rules relating to registering a persons name also state that a living individual’s name may not be registered except by his/her written consent. TMEP 1206.02. Additionally, a deceased U.S. President’s name may not be registered unless the President’s widow consents. Id.
For more information on the USPTO exhibit, please see the press release at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/speeches/09-12.htm
Image from: http://fr.fotolia.com/id/6370471
Filed under: Trademark by brandond