New parents often spend hours agonising over what to name their baby. For celebrity parents there is an even greater emphasis on finding the “right” name given the likelihood it will be ruminated over in the pages of a gossip magazine – “Apple”, “Sparrow” and “Sunday” are just a few recent examples. And now, as Beyonce and Jay-Z (or “Shawn Corey Carter”) have discovered, there is a new frontier. The trade mark dispute.
Just four days after their daughter “Blue Ivy” was born in January, entrepreneurial New York City fashion designer Joseph Mbeh applied to trade mark the name “Blue Ivy Carter NYC” to use on a variety of children’s clothing.
Mbeh’s application caused considerable media outcry, with commentators casting him as an opportunist and a pariah trying to leech off the renown of an infant. In response to the media backlash, Mbeh issued a statement that he never intended to exploit the baby’s name, but rather the concept was an idea for a business proposal he was planning to pitch to the tot’s famous parents. His statement said that his company had chosen to register the name to “protect the
concept of a future fashion line on [Beyonce and Jay-Z’s] behalf”.
Even if this was the intention, Mbeh’s application was destined to be rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as US trade mark legislation prohibits registration of a mark which uses a living person’s name unless that person has given their written consent. It is highly unlikely a one month old would be able to give such written consent, even if said baby is the progeny of two music superstars.
Although there is no comparable provision in Australian trade mark legislation, section 43 of the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) does restrict registration of a famous (or infamous) name in relation to specified goods or services if it is likely to raise issues of deception or confusion. The proposed use of “Blue Ivy Carter” could potentially indicate to consumers the patronage of mama Beyonce and papa Jay-Z, and therefore be susceptible to rejection under section 43. That said, it is interesting to speculate whether a name only four days old could be found to have the requisite fame.
Beyonce and Jay-Z have now lodged their own application with the USPTO to trade mark their daughter’s name. According to a report in the Washington Post, Beyonce’s company BGK Trademark Holdings has applied to register “Blue Ivy” for a line of “baby carriages, baby cosmetics, diaper bags” and, the Post reported, “other undoubtedly fabulous accoutrements for the fashion-forward infant”. The application has not yet been determined, but it is likely to be accepted due to the handy exception to the written consent requirement in the US which allows business-savvy parents to register their minor child’s name as a trade mark.
So, on the assumption the application is accepted and starts to be used, Blue Ivy baby bouncers are our pick for the hottest new accessory for stylish parents everywhere.