LINsanity, Blue Ivy Carter: A Race to the Trademark Office

posted Feb 17, 2012, 1:17 PM by Calan McConkey   [ updated Feb 20, 2012, 8:15 AM ]
Just a quick refresher on trademark law: By simply using a trademark (or, more simply put, a word or logo associated with a product or service) you can obtain legal protection. This protection, however, is usually limited to the areas in which you are using your trademark. Filing an application with the USPTO, on the other hand, can give you national rights for the term/trademark, effectively allowing you to prevent others from using the same. Because of this, you can see why certain "entrepreneurs" would be racing to file applications on terms that seemingly come out of nowhere and become part of our pop culture (read: worth a lot of money).

Recently, two words/names have become highly relevant in regards to trademarks: Blue Ivy Carter and LINsanity.

First, Blue Ivy Carter is the name of Jay-Z and Beyonce's child. After the name of the child was announced, the USPTO received multiple trademark applications for that term. From a potential business perspective, this is a great move to obtain exclusive rights to "BLUE IVY CARTER" for clothing (especially baby clothing) or really any other type of merchandise knowing how famous the parents are and how much publicity the child is likely to receive. The USPTO, however, knows this. The initial trademark applications were rejected registration on the grounds that the prospective mark: (1) falsely suggests a connection with Blue Ivy Carter, and (2) consists of a name that identifies a living individual without their consent.

The upshot of the Blue Ivy Carter scenario is that famous people -- and apparently their soon-to-be famous offspring -- are given protection of their names. Because they are the rightful owners of the names (as the legal guardians of the child) Beyonce and Jay-Z have filed and received a trademark on the name (#85526099). I'm sure everyone was worried for a minute that they would run out of money.


This next story is LINteresting, LINtertaining and LINsane, all at the same time. Jeremy Lin, the Asian Harvard graduate that is currently dominating the NBA, has become an overnight sensation. I think it is fair to say that his increased publicity and fanfare is based on the fact that he is an Asian NBA basketball player, but the attention is definitely warranted based on his talent and performance alone.

To describe the fanfare surrounding Jeremy Lin, the term "LINsanity" has come into being. This word has become so widespread and popular that it is actually a contender for "word of the year." Whatever that means (read the link below, maybe). Because of this, it should come as no surprise that a race to the USPTO has taken place to trademark LINSANITY.

The USPTO has already received a slew of applications to trademark LINSANITY (keep in mind that Lin's breakout game was just over a week ago). Based on a trademark search that I performed today (2/17/2012), there are already 3 trademarks filings for LINSANITY that were filed on Febraury 7th, 9th, and 13th of this year. After digging a little deeper, I found out that Jeremy Lin himself is the applicant on the mark from 2/13/2012. Apparently he was too busy with his LINstreak to file an application.

A legal battle over the ownership of LINSANITY is likely to ensue. Applying the rationale used by the USPTO in the Blue Ivy Carter case, one could see how Jeremy Lin should be the rightful owner of the mark. On the other hand, however, the trademark here isn't his exact name and merely a play on the name/word "Lin" which many other people have. If either of the earlier applicants were actually named "Lin" (they're not) then they could potentially have a stronger argument for legitimate ownership.

It will be interesting to see if Jeremy Lin tries to "steal" the trademark back for himself. If he needs any help, maybe he will contact me to "assist" him. Winning that case should be a "slam dunk." Okay, I'm done.

References: Blue Ivy Carter analysis; LINsanity word of year
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