Celebrity Trademarks, Not too Late at 68 for Meryl Streep

By Donna L. Mirman

Arguably the best actress of her generation, Meryl Streep has appeared in over 50 movies and shows over the past 45 years. Perhaps best known for her versatility and accent adaptation, Streep has for the first time at age 68 filed an application on January 22, 2018 to register her professional name, MERYL STREEP, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) under Application No. 87765571. The application, filed in her legal name, Mary Louise Streep, covers “entertainment services, namely, live, televised, and movie appearances by a professional actress and entertainer; personal appearances; speaking engagements; autograph signings; providing a website featuring content in the field of motion pictures” based on Streep’s use of the name in commerce since as early as 1975, the year she made her stage debut. In support of her current use of the name in connection with the services covered in her application, Streep submitted a screenshot from her website http://www.merylstreeponline.net/ featuring the official trailer from her recent movie The Post. Once her application issues to registration, Streep will have exclusive rights in the name MERYL STREEP in connection with entertainment and the related services covered in the application. While Streep has acquired substantial common law trademark rights in the name Meryl Streep, names and logos registered with the USPTO are given a higher degree of protection in federal courts than unregistered. Granted that no one other than Streep herself is likely to render personal appearances or sign autographs on behalf of Meryl Streep, she will now have an easier time if she seeks to stop third parties from using the name Meryl Streep on unauthorized websites to promote movies which feature her name.

Notwithstanding the absence of a likelihood of confusion with other registered marks, Streep’s application will not effortlessly sail through the examination process at the USPTO due to the failure of Streep’s attorney to provide Mary Louise Streep’s consent to the registration of Meryl Streep.  Accordingly, the Examiner will need to request a signed consent from Meryl Streep as a living individual or Streep will need to include a statement that “Meryl Streep” represents a pseudonym, stage name, or nickname as there is no signature or consent of record.

In seeking to trademark her stage name at 68, Streep is late to the celebrity trademark bandwagon joining the ranks of the increasingly large number of celebrities who turn to trademark law to protect their names from unauthorized commercial exploitation. This growing list includes:

  • Actor Sean Connery successfully registered his name in 2016 covering entertainment services in the nature of visual and audio performances by an actor, and personal appearances by a motion picture and television celebrity;
  • Kardashian clan members have over 50 active applications and issued registrations for Kim, Khloe Kourtney and Robert Kardashian along with numerous combinations of these household Kardashian names;
  • Paris Hilton owns numerous registrations for PARIS HILTON covering clothing, accessories, cosmetics and various other merchandise along with her catchphrase “that’s hot”;
  • Taylor Swift has filed over 60 trademark applications for her name TAYLOR SWIFT as well as some of her well-known lyrics such as “this sick beat” and “nice to meet you, where have you been”;
  • Athlete David Beckham and celebrity wife Victoria Beckham both registered their respective names covering various categories of products;
  • Rapper Curtis Jackson successfully trademarked his stage name 50 Cent across numerous categories and later sued a fast food chain for using 50 Cent in an advertising campaign.

It seems readily apparent from this growing list that many celebrities are trademarking their names across numerous categories merely to prevent the commercial exploitation of their names on merchandise, thereby lacking the statutory use or “intent to use” on the products or services covered in their applications as required under trademark law.

Some celebrities are taking it a step further and seeking to trademark the names of their children. For example, Jay Z and Beyoncé went so far as to file trademark applications for their daughter Blue Ivy Carter[1] covering 14 categories of goods and services along with two additional applications for their newly born twins Rumi Carter and Sir Carter each application covering the same 14 classes. All three applications were filed on the basis of intent to use in the name of BGK Trademark Holdings, LLC[2].

Despite being the daughter of music royalty, the name BLUE IVY is the subject of an Opposition currently pending at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) filed in May, 2017 on behalf of a Boston-area event planner doing business under the name Blue Ivy[3]. One of the grounds on which the Opposition is based is that BGK committed fraud in the USPTO in that BGK did not have the requisite intent to use the name on any or all of the 14 classes covered in the pending application. Blue Ivy’s basis for the claim is Jay Z’s statement in a 2013 Vanity Fair interview that he and Beyoncé had no intent on making the items claimed in the application for BLUE IVY CARTER. Such a statement could constitute fraud as a trademark application requires the filing party to make a declaration that there is a bona fide intent to use the mark in commerce. Similarly, there is no true intent to offer the goods and services listed in the pending applications for their twins.

Kylie Jenner, through the entity Kylie Jenner, Inc., is no stranger to litigation in the TTAB as there are at least four pending Oppositions as Jenner seeks to enforce (and defend) rights in the name KYLIE for various categories of products and services.

After reviewing the list of celebrity trademarks and the long litany of goods for which their names are protected, it is interesting to note that the pending application for Meryl Streep does not include similar types of merchandise. Rather, it seems that Streep is content to register her name for the live, televised, and movie appearances, speaking engagements and autograph signings at least for the time being. However, seeking to register one’s name as a trademark in the U.S simply to prevent exploitation is not without its pitfalls no matter the fame and notoriety associated with such name. It is critical that there be a bona fide intent to use the name on the goods and services covered in the application. Of course, the issuance of registrations remains dependent on the showing of actual use in commerce in the U.S.[4]


[1] This is the second application filed for the name Blue Ivy Carter as the first one was abandoned on February 22, 2016 due to Beyonce’s holding company BGK’s failure to show use in any of the fifteen classes covered in the application following the filing  when Blue Ivy was born in 2012 .  There is a statutory three year period following the allowance of the application.

[2] The Examiner raised the issue of requesting consent if the name represents that of a living individual or the consent of a legal guardian of a minor.

[3] Registration No. 4224833 for the mark BLUE IVY was registered to Veronica Morales (dba Blue Ivy) covering event planning and consultation services in Classes 35 and 41.

[4] The exceptions to the use requirement are foreign applicants filing on the basis of a foreign registration pursuant to the Paris Convention or a U.S. designation in an International Registration.