Why Do Jay Z and Beyonce Want To Trademark Blue Ivy?

What Women Really Think
Feb. 15 2012 2:00 PM

Why Trademark Blue Ivy?

124925643
Jay-Z and Beyoncé, the parents of Blue Ivy, watch the men's final match at the 2011 U.S. Open.

Photo by STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

A few weeks after they named their baby Blue Ivy, Jay Z and Beyonce filed an application to trademark her name. They weren’t the first. A fashion designer had already tried to trademark “Blue Ivy Carter NYC” and someone else asked for “Blue Ivy Carter Glory IV” for a line of perfumes. Apparently famous parents with a taste for the original in names have to issue a preemptive strike.

Actually, the U.S. trademark office already said no to the imposter filings, because the office is supposed to block trademarks that will make buyers think a product is approved by a celebrity who hasn't actually signed off. That seems like the right rule. But if the trademark office is already enforcing it, why do Jay Z and Beyonce think they need to do more?

Advertisement

Fordham law school professor Sonia Katyal explains: "When you register a mark for federal protection, you get the ability to stop anyone from using a similar mark throughout the country."  With their Blue Ivy trademark, Beyonce and Jay Z would be the only ones who could use the name in connection with certain goods and services--in this case, baby stuff. "it also conveys a certain kind of recognition," Katyal says. 

Beyonce and Jay Z could market Blue Ivy products, or they could just stop other people from doing that. Angelina Jolie tried to do the latter after her baby Shiloh was born. A French perfume maker wanted to use the name for a scent that was in development, and said it was a coincidence that the names were the same. Jolie filed in opposition to the perfume maker, but later dropped it. Just don't think of her baby when you wear Shiloh perfume.

One more wrinkle from Katyal: To register a surname as a trademark, you need evidence of "secondary meaning." That means the name has to be associated with your brand because of advertising or long-time use. Once you've proved that and gotten your trademark, other people can't use the surname on confusingly similar goods, even if they have the same name. "That's why Jane McDonald could not open a restaurant called "MCDONALDS",and Joel Hyatt can't open HYATT MOTEL," as the website Bitlaw puts it.

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.