As you watch a Disney™ film with your family while treating yourself to a can of Coca-Cola™, there’s one thing you may not have thought about.
You are experiencing two trademarks at once—with the company providing the entertainment and the one providing the beverage!
A trademark is a unique name for an individual, company, product, or service to distinguish it in the market. A trademark is uniquely yours and can’t be used by others without your express permission.
So now, you’re wondering: can you trademark your name?
Here’s what you need to know:
How to Trademark a Name
Before you trademark a name, you have to ensure that it qualifies first. This is the hardest part because there aren’t any set rules on what constitutes a trademark.
Let’s suppose someone told you about Smith. Do you immediately know who Smith refers to? Does it refer to the actor Will Smith? Does it refer to the economist Adam Smith? It’s such a common surname that it’s unlikely to get trademarked.
What about if someone mentioned the surname Djoković? You’d immediately assume they were discussing the tennis player Novak Djoković. That’s likely why he had no problem starting his winery in Serbia with his surname alone.
Likewise, in the introduction we mentioned Disney. You immediately think of The Walt Disney Company and not just anyone who bears that surname. The more unique or prominent a name is, the higher the likelihood of it becoming trademarked.
Can You Trademark Your Name?
If you want to trademark your name, you have to meet certain conditions such as what we alluded to in the previous section.
You must use or are planning on using your name as part of your business. Examples of this in use are what we’ve mentioned so far, such as Djoković Winery, Disney, Bacardi, etc.
At the same time, if another company uses your name, then you won’t be able to trademark it.
For example, a company called Ruger Rakija would not be able to register a trademark since the surname Ruger is already used for a firearms company. There have been many real-life cases of trademarks getting rejected due to the same or similar names.
If you don’t have another company with the same name, you’ll still have to prove that your name automatically gets associated with your brand. Just as you think of rum when you hear of Bacardi and you think of animated films when you hear the name Disney, the same conditions must be met for your name.
The Process of Registering a Trademark
You should always hire media and entertainment lawyers to help you with this process.
It’s a strenuous process and these lawyers can help expedite it for you. As the guidelines aren’t set in stone and there’s a lot of room for ambiguity, your lawyers can help present a case on why your name deserves to get trademarked.
The process involves filling out a lengthy application form from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. After you submit this form, you’ll have to wait weeks or even months for them to process your case.
If rejected, you can always continue applying to see if they give you a second chance. However, you must remember that while almost anything can receive copyright, few names can receive trademarks. This is where your lawyers come in to fight your case.
Why You Should Consider a Trademark
You might be wondering whether it’s even worth your time and investment to trademark your name.
The main reason is that it prevents others from profiting off your name. For example, the name “Harry Potter” was trademarked by author JK Rowling. This means that no one can legally write a story featuring the Harry Potter character without her explicit permission.
Likewise, even if you were to copy the recipe of Bacardi’s 151, you wouldn’t be able to sell it as “Bacardi 151” as the family owns the right to use that surname.
In the digital age, trademark registration is great for preventing cybersquatting. What is cybersquatting? It’s a process by which someone buys a domain name with the name of an established company or personality. Their hope is to sell the domain name at a high price to said entity.
But registering a trademark prevents these cybersquatters from buying such a domain name in the first place. This is one of the newest trademark laws and has helped celebrities such as Nicole Kidman.
If you have a well-known name, you might want to consider registering a trademark for it. You want to do this so you can later reserve your domain names as well as your social media handles.
Let’s end the guide with a few best practices to follow before you consider trademark registration.
Since trademarking your name is possible only if your name is known, you’ll have to work on building your reputation. Make sure you establish yourself in your industry and rise to the top.
There might be several people with the surname Coppola and Djoković who sell wine. But you only know of Francis Ford Coppola and Novak Djoković. You have to become the only known name in your industry.
Make sure you also register your company before you register your trademark. You want to show that you have an established business first. You’ll also have to show a portfolio of work completed by your company.
If you have a common name, you’ll have to make a case as to why you are the most unique person with your name!
Begin Trademark Registration
Now you know the answer to “can you trademark your name?” and can decide if you want to begin trademark registration.
You have to first ensure that you meet certain preliminary conditions. Afterward, you’ll have to present a case on why your name should receive a trademark.
It’s a lengthy and often stressful process to trademark your name. But you should consider the benefits that it’ll bring to your brand. Make sure you seek legal assistance during the process.
You can find more legal tips on our website.