The recent mainstream media coverage of the trademark dispute involving Beyoncé and Jay-Z highlights that it is possible to oversimplify intellectual property law. Several media outlets reported that that the famous parents “lost” their bid to trademark their daughter’s name, Blue Ivy, to a Boston-based wedding planner.
However, that is not what really happened. Beyoncé and Jay-Z filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register their daughter’s name as a trademark for use on a line of baby carriages, baby cosmetics, and diaper bags. Before their application was filed, several others also applied to register the child’s name as a trademark, including a fashion designer who sought to register “Blue Ivy Carter NYC” just four days after the baby was born. The USPTO denied many of the prior filings, stating that the name belonged to a “very famous infant” and consumers would mistakenly assume that her parents endorsed the products.
Around the same time, Boston event planner Veronica Alexandra also filed to register her existing business name Blue Ivy Events as a servicemark. The Trademark Office recently approved her application to register “Blue Ivy” in the limited field of event planning, causing the media to report that Jay-Z and Beyonce lost their chance for the “Blue Ivy” trademark. However, as long as Beyoncé and Jay-Z are not planning to start a party planning business using their daughter’s name, they have not lost anything.
As this case highlights, trademarks are generally limited to specific classes of goods and services. Therefore, it is possible for businesses to use the same marks, if they operate in unrelated fields.