Cubism and Picasso. A billowing skirt and Marilyn Monroe. The face-concealing wig of Sia. There’s no shortage of famous personalities who are strongly associated with iconic styles, moments or items which have come to define their personal brands. And thanks to social media and live streaming more and more people are able to develop and promote their own brand identities online. Some are even becoming viral sensations for things as simple as elegantly sprinkling salt.
Obtaining a large following also comes with the opportunity to capitalise on this popularity through merchandising or endorsements. But despite the inherent value of these signature aspects, can they be protected as registered trade marks? The answer is … it depends. Trade marks in Australia can be registered for any “sign” that distinguishes your goods or service from other traders. Most trade marks are for words and logos, but the definition is intentionally open-ended. This means that colours, scents, and even movements or gestures can form the basis of a trade mark application. Nevertheless in all cases the trade mark must be definable so it’s clear to everyone what the scope of the protection is. So while Banksy wouldn’t likely be able to get a trade mark for his style of stencil graffiti art, other more tangible representations of famous personal brands could be protected.
One example is the lightning bolt pose made famous by the sprinter Usain Bolt. Known across the world, this signature celebration is a valuable part of his personal brand, and he has a registered trade mark for the silhouette of this pose.
Closer to home, the tennis player Lleyton Hewitt has registered trade marks for stylised versions of his “come on” catch-cry and pose.
It’s important to note that these trade marks do not stop people from doing their own similar poses, but only apply to the specific goods or services that are against each trade mark. So you can still celebrate the end of your morning run with a lightning bolt pose, but tread carefully if you want to apply it to sporting apparel (unless you happen to be Usain Bolt).
If you think that you’ve got something unique as part of your personal brand and you’re able to encapsulate it, consider if a trade mark is worth getting. Even if you are just sprinkling some salt.
Check out our website for more information on trade marks. And if you want to search for other celebrities who might have registered their own trade marks, try finding them using our Australian Trade Mark Search, and tweet your results to us at @ipaustralia
Marilyn Monroe from Corpus Christi Caller-Times/Associated Press
Pablo Picasso from Introspective Magazine/Herbert List & Magnum Photos
Sia from Stylecaster/Getty Images
Usain Bolt photo from TMZ
Lleyton Hewitt photo from The Age/AFP