Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Trademark of a Celebrity.

These days it’s no longer enough to own a Vertu Diamond phone, a luxury yacht, an IPL team or a holiday home in Jumeirah Palm Island to qualify for celebrityhood. The ‘Big Kahuna’ test is whether you can trademark your name or not.

Shah Rukh Khan learned about this new licence for stardom a little earlier than most of our twinkle types. He filed for an application with the Controller General of Patents and Trademarks on 26th September 2008. Thanks to that masterstroke, the name ‘Shah Rukh Khan’ is a protected property under Class 41.

What that ‘protection’ means is: there can be no other Shah Rukh Khan on TV, Radio, Animation and Entertainment in India till 2018. Incidentally, SRK was not the first celebrity in the sub continent to trademark his name. Oscar winner AR Rahman beat him to it by filing his application on 29th April 2008!

Mallika Sherawat, Sachin Tendulkar, Kajol, Baba Ramdev, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and cardiologist Naresh Trehan are the only others who’ve exercised the option of converting their name into an intellectual property. Surprisingly the ultra narcissistic Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Vijay Mallya have refrained from trade marking their names.

While one might be tempted to lampoon the TM trend, let’s be very clear that it has its practical uses. Kajol, for instance, can leverage it in three ways: she could generate revenues by loaning her trademark to a product within the realm of entertainment; she could theoretically nip all potential misuse of her real & virtual identity with defamation suits; and most importantly, she can earn royalties from all future commercial deployment of her name.

Recently, Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z pushed the celebrity stakes one notch higher when they approached the USPTO for trade marking ‘Blue Ivory Carter’ - their new born baby’s name! It is to be seen if Abhi & Ash mimic this strategy.

Even if they do, they might hit a roadblock if the name is as commonplace as ‘Abhilasha’. The key is to be distinctive. My take is, ‘Aaradhya Bachchan’ may stand a better chance of making a mark with the patent office.