This week’s article is about a trademark issue involving two of the biggest names in music and their month-old offspring. On January 7, Rapper Jay-Z and singer Beyonce Knowles became parents of a precious seven pound bundle of joy. Like many celebrity couples who think it’s chic to give their children absurd names, they immediately sentenced their sweet little angel to years of ridicule and mockery by naming her Blue Ivy. Now, I admit it kind of sounds pretty and elegant when her first and middle names are used together, but we all know that everyone is just going to call her Blue. “Look, Blue blew out the candles on her cake!” “Why so blue, Blue?” “Why is the sky blue, Blue?” I guess the good news is that if she’s ever the requisite conniving shrew on a reality TV show, she has a ready-made nickname.
Of course, the birth of
Poison Blue Ivy made headlines all over the world. So, it’s not surprising that a couple of people thought it would be savvy to try to cash in on the baby’s fame. Four days after Blue’s birth, some guy named Joseph Mbeh filed a trademark application seeking to register BLUE IVY CARTER NYC for “infant, toddler, and junior clothing.” A mere two weeks after the application was filed, the Trademark Office refused registration of Mbeh’s trademark on the basis that it (1) falsely suggests a connection with Blue Ivy Carter, (2) consists of a name that identifies a living individual whose consent to register the name is not of record. The Trademark Examining Attorney assigned to review this application stated in his rejection that “Blue Ivy Carter is so famous the consumers would presume a connection.” To add insult to injury, the Trademark Office also refused registration of Mr. Mbeh’s trademark on the basis that it is likely to cause confusion with a 2011 federal trademark registration owned by a Wisconsin company for BLUE IVY for “retail store services featuring clothing, jewelry, home and clothing accessories, and giftware.” After realizing that his dreams of exploiting a newborn’s fame for his own monetary gain were dashed, Mbeh voluntarily abandoned his trademark application on January 24.
But Mr. Mbeh isn’t the only moron who wasted at least $325 filing a trademark application that had no chance of being approved. On January 20 (13 days after Blue was born), a company by the name of CBH By Benton Clothier LLC submitted a trademark application seeking to register BLUE IVY CARTER GLORY IV for a wide range of perfumes, fragrances, lotions, and other beauty products. Although the Trademark Office did not cite the existing trademark registration for BLUE IVY as a basis for rejection, it did refuse registration because (1) the trademark falsely suggests a connection with Blue Ivy Carter and (2) the mark consists of a name that identifies a living individual whose consent to register the name is not of record. The only twist in this application is that CBH By Benton Clothier claims that it has been using its trademark since February 14, 2011, which would be before Beyonce was even pregnant. Needless to say, I am highly skeptical of CBH’s claimed first use date. Either CBH is lying or it was able to see into the future. If it’s somehow the latter, I would still question why it took CBH almost a year after its amazing feat to file its trademark application and reserve its rights in the trademark. That’s like knowing what team is going to win the World Series at the beginning of Spring Training and forgetting to call your bookie.
Besides the amusement factor of these two applications, I find them interesting for another reason. Both applications were examined by the Trademark Office within two weeks of them being filed. It usually takes 3-4 months for a trademark application to be reviewed and applications are generally reviewed in the order they are filed. According to this article from The Washington Post, officials from the Trademark Office anticipated that trademark applications with BLUE IVY CARTER would show up so it was ready to quickly bat them down. I don’t believe this explanation for one second. It makes absolutely no sense that the Trademark Office would be actively looking for trademark applications containing BLUE IVY CARTER for the sole purpose of rejecting them quickly. Besides the fact that the Feds rarely do anything quickly, the birth of Blue Ivy Carter would not seem to be of such national significance to anticipate having to deviate from typical Trademark Office procedure. I know that the Trademark Office did something similar when Barack Obama was gaining popularity and won the presidency, but to think that Blue Ivy Carter would get the same treatment as Barack Obama sounds laughable to me. I think it’s much more likely that Jay-Z and Beyonce have very high-powered and well-connected trademark attorneys who contacted the Trademark Office immediately after learning of these applications. This theory is supported by the fact that Beyonce’s company filed its own trademark application for BLUE IVY CARTER on January 26 and likely conducted at least a cursory trademark search prior to filing.
I’m going to leave you with one final thought to ponder. What if these two applications were just for BLUE IVY and not BLUE IVY CARTER? What if an application for BLUE IVY was filed years after Blue’s birth or after Jay-Z and Beyonce were no longer in the public eye? What if the application was for BLOO IVEE? In all three cases, would the timing of the applications be the determining factor? Yes, this is what I spend my time thinking about.