Double check before you start building a brand you don’t actually own. To be protectable, a business name has to be distinctive. To read a case study on the types of terms considered distinctive, please visit the latest issue of Valley Business Front June [PDF link].
Everyone needs to calm down.
At least everyone in the entertainment world.
Various major news outlets have been reporting that “Kylie Minogue successfully blocked Kylie Jenner from trademarking the name ‘Kylie!’”—but Kylie Minogue had nothing to do with it. Yahoo, the Huffington Post, and the Today Show were just several news providers I saw touting the trademark-war-turned-cat-fight, when in reality the Kylie v. Kylie throwdown was settled amicably last month by the parties. Minogue originally filed an opposition against Jenner’s application for the “Kylie” mark, claiming it would dilute her own similar marks. In light of successful settlement negotiations, Minogue withdrew her opposition to Jenner’s application for serial nos. 86584742, 86584756, and 86755582 on January 19, 2017.
So what is actually happening? And why the ruckus?
The news should be focusing on Jenner’s appeal of the USPTO’s July 22, 2016 final refusal of mark serial no. 86810719, which was filed in November of 2015—and has nothing to do with Minogue.
Originally the subject of an Office Action in December of 2015, the USPTO most recently rejected registration of the “Kylie Jenner” for likelihood of confusion with mark Reg. No. 4166624, “Kylee.” Both marks claimed International Class 025, which includes clothing and accessories. The “Kylee” mark, belonging to Mimo Clothing Corporation, asserts first use in April 2011 and covers “Belts; Blouses; Bras; Capris; Cardigans; Coats; Corsets; Coveralls; Denims; Dresses; Footwear; Gauchos; Gloves; Gowns; Hats; Jackets; Jerseys; Jumpers; Leggings; Lingerie; Overalls; Panties; Pants; Ponchos; Scarves; Shirts; Shoes; Shorts; Skirts; Socks; Suits; Sweaters; T-shirts; Tank-tops; Tights; Tops; Uniforms; Vests; [and] Wrist bands.” Registered July of 2012, the “Kylee” mark is up for Sections 8 and 15 filings in 2017.
Jenner filed her application for “Kylie Jenner” in 2015, long after the “Kylee” mark’s registration. Upon review, the USPTO determined that “Kylee” and “Kylie Jenner” were 1) too similar, 2) in related categories, and 3) would create a likelihood of confusion with consumers. The final refusal, preceded by a non-final Office Action, issued last July. Jenner’s team filed an appeal to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) on January 23, 2017 to fight the rejection. A full-fledged TTAB proceeding will follow. Apparently, the appeal got the attention of media outlets across the globe, (as any Kardashian news tends to do) resulting in incorrect blame-placing on Australian-based Minogue from halfway around the world.
As of the writing of this article, Minogue has not issued a statement.
The moral of the story — don’t trust everything you see on the news. Especially if it’s about a Kardashian.
Trademark Rights are Limited
A trademark owner can stop other businesses that sell the same product or service from using a confusingly similar trademark in a way that is likely to cause customer confusion about the source of the goods or services. That’s it. That’s all the power a trademark owner has. If there is no confusion, then there is no infringement.
So for example, companies making different products can use identical trademarks, like GERBER for baby food and GERBER for knives. No one is likely to confuse baby food for knives, or vice versa, and so there is no infringement.
There have been stories all over the national news media this week about a trademark spat between Duke University and the heirs of movie legend John Wayne. Wayne’s heirs are trying to register the trademarks DUKE and DUKE JOHN WAYNE for use on whiskey. Duke University opposed the registration applications before the U.S. Trademark Office last year, and now the heirs, apparently fed up, have filed a federal lawsuit back at Duke University. Continue reading “Duke and “The Duke” Duke it Out” »