Assange trademarking his name - Patrick Barkham - Thursday, March 03, 2011

Soource :

THE news that Julian Assange is seeking to register his name as a trademark will surprise many but turning one’s name into a trademark is an increasingly common legal move for celebrities seeking to protect the commercial use of their name to sell goods and services.

Everyone from Lady Gaga to the UK gardening expert turned novelist and TV broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh has done it. The tactic can look more self-aggrandising when deployed by free speech campaigners or politicians, who supposedly move in less nakedly commercial worlds. But that hasn’t stopped Sarah Palin and her daughter, Bristol, who are currently seeking to register their names as trademarks in the United States. “It’s a bizarre thing for someone associated with freedom of information to do,” says David Allen Green, head of media practice at Preiskel & Co and the legal correspondent of the UK political weekly New Statesman.

According to Abida Chaudri, an associate at London-based trademark attorneys Grant Spencer, however, Assange’s application, through his own law firm, Finers Stephens Innocent, is “quite logical”. “I suspect the application is more to do with his going it alone and using his WikiLeaks website to publish material, as opposed to somebody else pretending to be Julian Assange, which is probably unlikely,” says Chaudri.

Assange is an internationally recognised figure, widely praised for his role in obtaining and leaking official secrets. He also has a distinctive brand because of his memorable name (there are no Julian Assanges on the UK electoral roll, for example). It can be harder to get a common name accepted as a trademark by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) but trademark law ensures that if there was a masseur from Edinburgh called Julian Assange, he could continue to sign his name, even if the other Julian Assange was successful in his application. Another clause allows for “honest concurrent use” so Assange Masseurs, if it existed, could continue to trade.

As Gillian Davies records in her paper, The Cult of Celebrity and Trade Marks, Catherine Zeta-Jones registered her full name under the IPO’s ‘entertainment services’ classification. Robbie Williams’s registration featured four different classes of use, covering video, film, sound recordings, books, calendars, posters and clothing.

Many celebrities, such as David Beckham, take an even more thorough approach, filing for a ‘Community Trade Mark’ in Alicante, Spain, so their name will be protected in all 27 EU countries.

— The Guardian, London

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