For celebrities — much like Marlo from The Wire — their name is their name. It’s their livelihood, it’s their first point of recognition for their fans, and in some cases, it’s roughly 90 percent of their earthly value. So you can understand why they might be pretty protective of it.
With Beyoncé and JAY-Z at the center of the latest legal battle over trademarking the full name of their little “cultural icon,” we decided to take a look back at some other celebrity lawsuits involving either their name or, in some cases, a certain phrase very near and dear to their hearts.
Blue Ivy Carter vs. Blue Ivy
JAY-Z and Beyoncé can’t seem to catch a break in their long-lasting legal battle to trademark daughter Blue Ivy’s name. According to newly filed documents by The Blast, a lifestyle event planning business owner named Veronica Morales filed an opposition to their suit, claiming she’d previously applied to trademark “Blue Ivy” — the name of her company — in 2012. But Queen Bey isn’t backing down; the brief clarifies that the power couple is looking to trademark their 7-year-old daughter’s full name, and “claims that consumers are likely to be confused between a boutique wedding event planning business and Blue Ivy Carter, the daughter of two of the most famous performers in the world, is frivolous and should be refused in its entirety.”
The brief also asserts that “Blue Ivy Carter is a cultural icon who has been described as a ‘mini style star’ and has been celebrated for her ‘fashion moments’ overs [sic] the years.” Can I trademark that description as my epitaph?
Kylie Minogue vs. Kylie Jenner
The Australian pop singer faced off with the then-budding beauty mogul back in 2016, filing a notice of opposition to Jenner’s attempt to trademark their shared first name. Minogue already owned trademarks for various “Kylie” related terms as well as Kylie.com, and the court documents slammed Jenner as a “secondary reality television personality” best known for her “photographic exhibitionism” and “controversial posts” on social media, claiming that approval of her application would confuse audiences and dilute Minogue’s brand. Fast-forward to 2019 and not only have the pair settled out of court, clearing the way for Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics to achieve its billion-dollar cult status, but Minogue even launched her own beauty line named — you guessed it — “Kylie,” in June of this year.
Sarah and Bristol Palin vs. All Other Sarah and Bristol Palins
In June 2011, Sarah Palin finally succeeded in becoming a brand — and she took her daughter, Bristol, with her. It was a process that began in November 2011; the pair’s trademark covered “education and entertainment services.” Palin’s relatively normal name caused trouble for at least one other Sarah Palin, a then-20-year-old University of Texas Austin junior. “If I ever open up a business, I guess I could use my middle name,” she told TIME. “Sarah Beth Palin isn’t trademarked.”
Taylor Swift vs. Various Phrases of the English Language
Taylor Swift went on a trademark spree in 2015, attempting to register the phrases “this sick beat,” “Nice to meet you, where you been?” and “Party like it’s 1989,” among roughly 30 others. Unlike copyright law, this is totally acceptable — traders rights don’t require the phrase in question to be entirely unique or for the applicant to have coined the phrase. One battle she lost, though, was against Blue Sphere, a California company that was waging war against her in court over the phrase “Lucky 13.” The company ran the Lucky 13 clothing brand, while Swift just really liked the number, running a “Lucky 13” sweepstakes and a partnership with a greeting card company. They eventually settled out of court.
Paris Hilton vs. Hallmark
Paris Hilton sued the Hallmark Company over a card bearing her “signature phrase,” “That’s hot,” in 2007. The battle dragged on for three years, before an appeals court rejected Hallmark’s protected-speech argument and found in Hilton’s favor.
Snooki vs. a Fictional Cat
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi attempted to trademark her signature nickname via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2010, only to discover that the USPTO had already granted the name — albeit a version spelled with a “y” — to a fictional cat with his own book series, by Brian J. Publishing Inc. The Trademark Office turned down Snooki’s application because of a “likelihood of confusion” between the Jersey Shore star and the fictional cat.
The Situation vs. the World
Snooki wasn’t the only Jersey Shore personality to attempt to profit off their name. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino attempted to trademark his signature nickname in 2010, only to have it shot down because of a “likelihood of confusion” between Sorrentino and a Memphis clothing retailer. Similar attempts in 2012 to trademark “GTL” and “twinning” were slapped down by Viacom, who pointed out that Sorrentino signed away the rights to any “creations” that arose during the show’s broadcast when he signed on to star on the MTV reality show.
Tim Tebow vs. Prayer Stances
Tim Tebow’s representatives trademarked his signature prayer stance in 2012, ensuring that no one would be able to profit from a common global gesture ever again.
Lady Gaga vs. Ice Cream
Lady Gaga sued a British ice cream vendor over its “Baby Gaga” ice cream — ice cream made from human breast milk. “How can she possibly claim ownership of the word ‘gaga’ which since the dawn of time has been one of the first discernible phrases to come from a baby’s mouth?” Matt O’Connor, the parlor’s owner, rhetorically asked the Guardian.
Madonna vs. a Different Material Girl
Madonna owns “Madonna,” which makes sense, but her attempts to trademark the name of her signature hit haven’t gone as well. A federal judge in California rejected her claim to the title — she was battling LA Triumph, a clothing retailer that’s been selling “Material Girl” clothing since 1997 — saying that “the singing of a song does not create a trademark.”