What’s in a Name – the Prince Brand Lives On
By Michael Antone, IP Attorney
Even though the artist “Prince” (Prince Rogers Nelson) passed away in 2016, his brand continues to live on and is another example of the power and value of branding as an asset.
In the case of NPG Records, LLC and Paisley Park Enterprises, LLC v. JHO Intellectual Property Holdings LLC (“JHO”), the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) ruled in favor of the current owners of the Prince brand against a trademark applicant (JHO) that was seeking a US trademark registration for the trademark “Purple Rain” for various dietary and nutritional supplement drinks, mixes energy bars, and energy drinks.
The Prince brand owners argued, among other things, that the Applicant’s mark should not be registered as it creates “false suggestion of a connection with Prince under Trademark Act Section 2(a)”, which in relevant part “prohibits registration of “matter which may … falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols …”
In finding in favor of the current owners of the Prince brand, the TTAB set forth the requirements relevant to this case, namely that
1) “[a] term may be considered the identity of a person even if his or her name or likeness is not used. All that is required is that the mark sought to be registered would be recognized by consumers as a reference to a specific person or individual” and
2) “the name (or an equivalent thereof) claimed to be appropriated by another must be unmistakably associated with a particular personality or ‘persona.’”
While every mark will not achieve the notoriety of Prince and Purple Rain, the case demonstrates the value that can be created in a brand and how the value of an asset created in 1984 can continue well into the future.