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USPTO Denies Media Company’s Request to Trademark “Casey Anthony”

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USPTO by cytech on Flickr

USPTO by cytech on Flickr

In early July, Casey Anthony was acquitted in a lengthy, well-publicized murder trial for the death of her two-year-old daughter Kaylee. On July 10, Grant Media, a California company, applied to register the trademark “Casey Anthony” in connection with various entertainment ventures.

So can you just go ahead and try to trademark anyone’s name, particularly the name of someone who is famous (or infamous)?

Sure, so long as you have their consent to do so.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied the application.  The USPTO could find no connection between Grant Media and Anthony–nor did Anthony consent to Grant’s use of her name, as required by the USPTO when an applicant seeks to register a mark containing another person’s name. According to documents obtained by TMZ.com, “[Anthony] is not connected with the services sold by the applicant under the mark. Moreover, due to her fame, purchasers would presume a connection between Casey Anthony and the entertainment services.”

Since trademarks function first and foremost as a source indicator, this lack of connection is usually the kiss of death for an application.  Section 1052(c) of Article 15 the U.S. Code, which protects individuals’ privacy and publicity rights, specifically prohibits the registration of a trademark that “[c]onsists of or comprises a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual except by his written consent.” Because Grant failed to get Anthony’s consent, the USPTO rejected the application.

Grant Media didn’t return TMZ’s phone calls for a comment.

This was probably one of the easiest decisions the USPTO has ever faced as the law is clear: without Anthony’s consent, there was no chance of Grant Media securing a trademark on her name.  It’s also hard to imagine what kinds of “Casey Anthony” products or services Grant Media was going to sell. Better not to think about it. It seems like the USPTO has done us all a favor with this decision.

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October 11th, 2011 at 9:46 am