Twitter and the blogs became abuzz as a Twitter user posted that Barbadian mogul/ pop star, Rihanna filed a trademark application for the mark: “Fenty Estates Wine & Spirits.” Rihanna whose real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty is one of the hardest working women in the entertainment industry and so, it would not be surprising if she is indeed starting her own wine and spirits brand. However, the trademark application that was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) raises four (4) noticeable red flags: 1)The trademark application was filed by JGC Global LLC and not, Rihanna's company Roraj Trade LLC, 2) there was no Attorney of Record on the trademark application, 3) nothing indicates that the mark “FENTY” identifies Robyn Rihanna Fenty and 4) there was no statement of permission from Rihanna giving consent to use her surname “Fenty” as a trademark. One is now left to wonder whether the “Fenty Estates Wine and Spirits” trademark application is associated with Robyn Rihanna Fenty or someone else.
Firstly, the trademark application was filed by JBC Global LLC, a Delaware company and not Rihanna's company, Roraj Trade LLC. Trademark applications for "Rihanna" and her cosmetics line, "Fenty Beauty" were filed by Roraj Trade LLC.
Secondly, a person of Rihanna’s caliber would prefer to seek legal counsel for the registration of their trademarks or marks associated with their brands. For the "Fenty Estates Wine & Spirits" trademark application, there was no Attorney of Record. Perhaps, JGC Global LLC had a company representative file the mark on their behalf but it seems as if there was no attorney involved. Isn't that a little informal for Rihanna?
Thirdly, there is no information on the trademark application to indicate that the term “Fenty” in the mark refers to Robyn Rihanna Fenty. Why is this problematic? Under the Lanham Act, which is the federal law that governs trademarks, a mark that is primarily a surname cannot be federally registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, unless it acquires secondary meaning or distinctiveness. Furthermore, to register the surname of a living person, one must have the person’s expressed written permission to use their last name as a trademark. The trademark application “Fenty Estates Wine and Spirits" which was filed by JGC Global LLC does not contain a statement of permission from Rihanna herself. Is this brand associated with Rihanna? It's almost not looking that way.
The crux of trademark law is to prevent consumer confusion and therefore, the law limits the circumstances in which a surname can be registered as a trademark. For example, if this mark is indeed associated with Rihanna, there is a possibility that it could be approved by the Trademark Office on the basis that FENTY has acquired secondary meaning as it may be distinctively known as the surname of Rihanna. According to the USPTO website, you may claim distinctiveness if because of the extensive use and promotion of the mark, consumers now directly associate the mark with the applicant as the source of those goods. Acceptable evidence of use and promotion can include:
(a) advertising and promotional materials that specifically show or promote the applied-for mark in use as a trademark and source-identifier;
(b) dollar figures for advertising devoted to such promotion;
(c) dealer and consumer statements indicating recognition of the applied-for mark as a trademark;
(d) other evidence that shows consumer recognition of the applied-for mark as a trademark for applicant's goods.
Under (d), being famous globally certainly helps one to acquire distinctiveness. If “Fenty Estates Wine and Spirits” is associated with Rihanna then one would think that JGC Global LLC would jump at the first chance to claim distinctiveness by showing their association with the famous Rihanna whose surname "Fenty" is widely recognizable.
On the other hand, in looking at the trademark application for “Fenty Beauty,” which is Rihanna’s new cosmetics line, there is an Attorney of Record; there is also a note that indicates that the “Fenty” mark identifies Robyn Rihanna Fenty and attached is a signed and notarized written statement of permission for use of the “Fenty” surname from Rihanna herself.
Here is the note on the "Fenty Beauty" application that indicates that the "Fenty" mark identifies Robyn Rihanna Fenty:
And, here is the signed and notarized written statement of permission for use of the “Fenty” surname for the "Fenty Beauty" application from Rihanna herself.
At the moment, there are no such notations for the "Fenty Estates Wine and Spirits" trademark application. So, whether “Fenty Estates Wine and Spirits” is associated with Rihanna is left to be seen. At this time, it is difficult to make that assumption. We'll be watching to see...
DISCLAIMER: This blog post should be not be construed as legal advice.