David Lilenfeld Blog The intellectual property blog of David Lilenfeld

26Feb/164589

Trademark Office: PRINCESS KATE and ROYAL KATE Unregistrable

By David Lilenfeld on February 26, 2016

Nieves & Nieves LLC, Applicant, filed an intent-to-use application to register the trademarks PRINCESS KATE and ROYAL KATE. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board refused to register the trademarks PRINCESS KATE and ROYAL KATE for clothing, jewelry, handbags, and bedding on the grounds that the trademarks falsely suggest a connection with the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found the trademarks to violate Section 2(a) and furthermore violated Section 2(c) because the trademarks include a name of a living person, Kate Middleton, without her consent.

Kate Middleton

Photo courtesy of Ricky Wilson

The Examining Attorney submitted evidence from foreign news sources, which had probative value because this case concerns perception of the United States public regarding the identity of a celebrity.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board determined the trademarks PRINCESS KATE and ROYAL KATE falsely suggested a connection between the Applicant and Kate Middleton by applying a four-part test:

(1) whether the trademarks are the same as or a close approximation of Kate Middleton's previously used name or identity;

(2) whether the trademarks would be recognized as such by purchasers, in that it points uniquely and unmistakably to Kate Middleton;

(3) whether she is not connected with the activities performed by the applicant under the trademarks; and

(4) whether Kate Middleton's name is of sufficient fame or reputation that when the trademarks are used with applicant’s goods, a connection with her would be presumed.

The Applicant argued that the trademarks PRINCESS KATE and ROYAL KATE are not similar to Kate Middleton’s name because she is a duchess and not a princess. However, a term can be considered the identity of a person even if her name is not used.

Various media sources have referred to Kate Middleton as “Princess Kate” and “Royal Kate” thus making the trademarks close approximations of the identity of Kate Middleton. The trademarks PRINCESS KATE and ROYAL KATE unmistakably refer to Kate Middleton because she was known as a fashion trendsetter.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found that both the trademarks falsely suggested a connection with Kate Middleton and affirmed the Section 2 (a) refusal. The Board refused registration of the trademarks on the grounds that Kate Middleton, as a member of the British Royal Family, was the subject of public interest. Her identity was of sufficient fame that when the trademarks are used it is likely that people will connect them to her.

Section 2(c) bars registration of a trademark that has a name identifying a living person except by his or her written consent. Consent is required only if the person named in the trademark will be associated with the trademark either because:  (1) the person is so well known that the public would reasonably assume a connection between the person and the goods or services; or (2) the individual is publicly connected with the business in which the mark is used. It is important to note, however, that when the person is famous it is not necessary to show a connection between the goods and the person.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board held that the trademarks PRINCESS KATE and ROYAL KATE consisted of the name of a living person and because Kate Middleton has not consented to the use and registration of the names the TTAB refused to register the trademarks.

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