By the time Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s newborn twins Sir and Rumi debuted on Instagram, Beyonce had already applied to trademark their names. But it won’t be an easy process, if it’s anything like the one over the name of Jay and Beyonce’s first child, Blue Ivy.
The June 26 applications seek the exclusive right to use the twins’ names — Sir Carter and Rumi Carter — on everything from baby teething rings to “musical performances” and “computer application software for mobile phones,” according to the applications.
Before you accuse Beyonce and Jay-Z of trying to make money off their kids, stop right there: What they may actually be doing is trying to stop anyone else from doing that.
Jay-Z, aka Shawn Carter, said in an October 2013 Vanity Fair article that he and Beyoncé submitted applications to trademark the name of Blue Ivy Carter only because they wanted to stop others from using her name to make money.
“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. It wasn’t for us to do anything; as you see, we haven’t done anything,” he said.
Unfortunately, that was a problem, where trademarks are concerned. In order to trademark a name, you need to show that you are using it to sell goods, Stanford law professor and trademark expert Mark A. Lemley told TheWrap.
“Presumably the children aren’t themselves products, and aren’t being used as names to sell products,” Lemley said.
There is no indication that Beyonce and Jay-Z are selling any products with the names Sir and Rumi Carter, who were born on June 12.
One silver lining: It doesn’t appear that anyone else would be able to trademark their childrens’ names, either.
“They probably don’t need to worry about being preempted if they don’t act, because other people are not allowed to register trademarks that create a false connection between the trademark owner and someone else,” Harvard law professor Rebecca Tushnet told TheWrap.
The trademark applications for the twins were filed by Beyoncé’s company, BGK Trademark Holdings. Jonathan D. West, the Los Angeles attorney who filed the applications, declined to comment when reached by TheWrap.
Even if Beyoncé is not currently using the twins’ names to sell merchandise, she can file an “intent to use” application with a sworn statement saying her holding company intends to use the Rumi and Sir Carter names on trademarked goods or services in the near future, Boston University law professor Stacey Dogan said.
“Applicants have six months after the notice of allowance to file proof of use; the deadline can be extended for additional six-month increments, up to a total of 30 months (5 extensions),” Dogan told TheWrap.
In other words, Beyoncé has two and a half years to start selling Rumi and Sir Carter merchandise to win approval for the trademarks. If she fails to do that, her trademark application will be rejected.
It’s a Catch 22 for Beyoncé and Jay-Z: Should they financially exploit their childrens’ names in order to keep others from doing so?
But if past experience is any indication, the proud parents have no intention of monetizing their twins.
That is causing a legal problem for the couple. A wedding planning company also called Blue Ivy is challenging Beyoncé’s trademark application, claiming that Beyoncé registered the trademark and falsely promised the trademark office she would use the Blue Ivy Carter mark — but never did.
Lawyers for the wedding planner cited Jay-Z’s statement in the 2013 Vanity Fair article to argue that the trademark is invalid because the couple have not used the child’s name in any merchandise, as required by law.