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Legal Blog: Inside The Shocking Trademark Lawsuit Against Blac Chyna Over Kardashian Name

Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.

A rose by any other name than Kardashian wouldn’t smell as rich. The 28-year-old entrepreneur and reality TV star Blac Chyna, who recently gave birth to her and fiancé Rob Kardashian’s first child, Dream, filed an application to trademark what will become her married name after she and Rob tie the knot: Angela Renée Kardashian. The Kardashian Klan is none too happy. 

The application, filed on behalf of Chyna’s company Lashed LLC, is now being contested by Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe’s companies. The Kardashian sisters’ companies filed a Notice of Opposition on Dec. 1, arguing that the Kardashians’ businesses would “suffer damage, including irreparable injury, to their reputation and goodwill” if Chyna were granted a trademark on her future married name.

The Notice of Opposition states that the Kardashian name and brand has “acquired distinctiveness and goodwill in the United States and throughout the world,” and that each of the sisters’ companies have “spent, and continue to invest, a substantial amount of time, resources and money in protecting, advertising and promoting” their brand.

In their attempt to block the trademark, the Kardashians would have to prove that the two trademarks are identical and that the new trademark – Angela Renée Kardashian – is confusingly similar to the Kardashian sisters’ existing mark.

Chyna’s lawyer Walter Mosley tells People “In event the matter goes to court…“I’m going to zealously represent my client in a trademark we legally filed and a name that we feel like we own and need to protect.”

The Kardashians have their name on everything from their Keeping Up with the Kardashians TV show to perfumes to clothing to books. This is empire building at its finest – or most ruthless. Any fortuneteller worth his or her salt could have foreseen that Blac Chyna would want a piece of this Kardashian pie.

The “Rob & Chyna” star’s lawyer alleges that her desire to trademark her married name is not poaching because it will legally be her name, and apparently, Rob agrees, saying that they will indeed be married and she is going to be a Kardashian.

Celebs often apply for protection from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) based on the distinctive nature of their name. Federal law provides the main, and the most extensive, source of trademark protection. Usually, celebrities seek trademark protection to safeguard their financial stake in any and all marketing and also to guarantee that their name is not used in any manner that will dilute their brand. When first names and surnames take on a distinctive quality, then the name may be granted trademark protection.  When a property is protected under the trademark laws, its owner enjoys the exclusive right to use the property for an indefinite period of time.

Trademark protection is available for letters, words, names, abbreviations, acronyms, monograms, slogans, titles, symbols, etc. Trademark law is designed to protect a business’s commercial identity and goodwill. A note to the Kardashian sisters: Trademark law doesn’t chiefly exist to protect you from the loss of profits; its purpose is to protect the consumer from confusion or deception. As a consumer, what do you think of Blac Chyna’s trademark application? For KKK, perhaps it’s about power more than money.

When faced with a celebrity claim for trademark infringement, courts will make assessments based on a traditional trademark infringement analysis, which includes a likelihood of confusion test and any asserted defenses such as a First Amendment or a fair use defense.

If Chyna’s request were granted by the USPTO, she would have the sole right to use her name for advertising, business dealings, and across social media platforms. The registration of a celebrity’s name as a trademark allows the celebrity to defend itself from unauthorized use of his/her name.  It also signals to prospective licensees that the celebrity is open to the licensing of his/her name for merchandising purposes. 

It has been a whirlwind year for the Kardashians, from the so-called Paris robbery to Kanye West’s meltdown and hospitalization to Kimye divorce rumors. What is real? Is Blac Chyna just beating the Kardashians at their own branding and marketing game?

Chyna’s lawyer threw shade at the Kardashians in the press, noting, “I would hope that this is just a junior lawyer’s error, who’s just responding to everything and not really looking at who it’s from or why it was filed. I have 40 days to respond,” Mosley tells People of the suit.

The argument could be made that Kardashian lawyers automatically oppose anyone trying to trademark “Kardashian.” But that claim doesn’t hold much weight, knowing Chyna will marry Rob. Moreover, weren’t Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe aware of the Notice of Opposition filed on their behalf? They better have been consulted and subsequently consented to the legal filing, otherwise the “K” girls might have a claim for legal malpractice. It is komplicated, indeed.

Whose side are you on? Grab your gavel, join the conversation, and tell us whether Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe should have ownership over “Kardashian.”

 

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