The Kardashian/Jenner family have made millions by commodifying their personal lives and turning themselves into powerhouse brands. It should therefore come as little surprise that the younger generation of the family are seemingly being primed to follow in their footsteps.
The reality TV show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” has followed the day-to-day lives of Kim, Kourtney, Khloé and Rob Kardashian, their “momager” mother Kris Jenner, their (now former) step-parent Caitlyn Jenner, and their step-sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner.
They now enjoy huge success in the fields of cosmetics, fashion, modelling and smartphone apps.
As reported by various media outlets, applications have been filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to obtain registered trade mark protection for the names of some of the Kardashian/Jenner children. Kim Kardashian West has applied to register the names of her and Kanye West’s children, “NORTH WEST”, “SAINT WEST” and “CHICAGO WEST”. Kylie Jenner has sought to register the name of her daughter “STORMI WEBSTER”, in addition to the mark “STORMIWORLD”. Khloé Kardashian has applied to register the name of her daughter “TRUE THOMPSON”. Finally, Rob Kardashian has applied to register the name of his daughter, “DREAM KARDASHIAN”, as a trade mark.
The applications have, between them, been filed to register the names in relation to a variety of goods and services, including cosmetics, clothing, toys/games, entertainment services, endorsement services, retail services and advertising services.
In today’s world, celebrities’ names function as trade marks, and it certainly makes good business sense for celebrities to protect their names. However, registering children’s names at such an early age may seem like quite a mercenary move. From one angle, it could suggest that the Kardashian/Jenner children are going to be put to work endorsing and promoting products, and that their parents wish to profit by turning their children into brands.
However, there may be other, less controversial, justifications for the trade mark applications. By registering the names, the family would be better placed to stop others from hijacking or imitating the names for commercial purposes without their permission, thereby benefiting unfairly from the family’s fame, or potentially damaging their reputation. The family would also be better placed to stop others from registering the names (or variations thereon) for certain goods/services, something which “squatters” or “trolls” might seek to do with a view to extorting money from the family. If the children grow up to live in the media spotlight as adults, they may ultimately be grateful that their parents safeguarded their names for them.
The media was equally intrigued when Beyoncé and Jay-Z sought to register the names of their children, Blue Ivy Carter, Sir Carter and Rumi Carter, as trade marks in recent years. “People wanted to make products based on our child’s name and you don’t want anybody trying to benefit off your baby’s name,” Jay-Z told Vanity Fair in 2013.
It is a prerequisite for obtaining and/or maintaining a trade mark registration in the USA that the mark is used in commerce. The Kardashians/Jenners filed their recent trade mark applications on an "intent to use" basis. This being so, time may well reveal the intentions behind these applications. If the marks are not ultimately used for the goods/services applied for, we can expect the applications to encounter difficulties.