Q: Can a sobriquet be a trademark?
A: It can, as long as it’s being used as a trademark to sell something: T-shirts, public speaking services, action figures, entertainment services, etc.
- Shakespeare, if he were alive, could register THE BARD OF AVON for playwrighting services.
- Wile E. Coyote, if he were real, could register SUPER GENIUS for roadrunner catching services. (I would absolutely do that legal work pro bono.)
Turning from the hypothetical to the real:
- Harpo, Inc. owns multiple trademark registrations containing OPRAH for, among other things, educational and entertainments services, magazines, and clothing.
- Curtis J. Jackson III owns trademark registrations for 50 CENT for music recordings but also clothing, books, and audio equipment.
- RuPaul Charles owns a trademark registration for RUPAUL for prerecorded CDs featuring musical performances by a professional entertainer.
There are some limitations to what can be registered. First, no one can register a trademark that includes the name, stage name, or nickname of a live person unless they are that person or they have that person’s permission.
The rules about generic and “merely descriptive” trademarks still hold. Julia Child had a registered trademark for THE FRENCH CHEF for entertainment services. I doubt that she would have been able to register THE FRENCH CHEF for cooking services.
Shout out to Aubrey B. for the question that led to this blog post.
Shout out to photographer, Jim Clark of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for the amazing coyote photo.