Ridin' The Zion Train: Can you seek trademark registration for a famous person's name?


Let me just say this upfront. You cannot successfully obtain trademark registration for a famous person's name without their consent. The policy behind such a law should be clear, these famous persons work hard to build their personal brands and they should be the ones to monetize it.


Duke University forward, Zion Williamson is expected to be the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Many sports pundits have compared him to Los Angeles Lakers forward, LeBron James. While I believe that their skills are different, Zion's potential seems limitless and he is being anointed as the next big thing in basketball.


With hype comes people who want a piece of the pie and so, there are persons who are trying to take a ride on The Zion Train by attempting to achieve trademark registration for his name. In all instances, these persons failed to seek counsel from a trademark attorney because if they did, they would know that you cannot successfully obtain trademark registration for a famous person's name without their consent.


On April 2nd, 2019- a lady from Maryland filed a trademark application for "Zion Williamson" for clothing. This is what I would call a "dead trademark application walking" because it is almost guaranteed that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will refuse this application on the grounds that "the applied for mark consists of or comprises a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual whose written consent must be of record" and also because the applied-for mark consists of or includes matter which may falsely suggest a connection with Zion Williamson, who is a famous person. In other words, you must have a famous person's signed consent in order to seek registration of a mark which includes their name.


A man from Florida and another from New Jersey also tried to seek federal trademark registration for 'Zion Williamson' for clothing. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied both applications. All three applicants were not represented by attorneys because, if they were, they would have been advised that they were wasting their time and money because again, you cannot successfully obtain trademark registration for a famous person's name without their consent.


DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.

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