- A lot of celebrities file for trademarks, which essentially makes it so others cannot profit off of an original idea or phrase.
- Sometimes celebrities have caused a lot of controversy with their trademark applications, with many accusing stars of appropriating a culture, stealing someone else’s phrase, or trying to get the rights to something that’s far too common.
- Taylor Swift has tried to trademark her three cats’ names as well as plenty of her lyrics.
- After going viral for singing “rise and shine” to her daughter, Kylie Jenner is trying to trademark it.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more great stories.
From catchphrases to pet names, celebrities have tried to trademark a lot of different things over the years.
In simple terms, trademarks are a legal way to ensure other people can’t profit off of your original idea or phrase, though the rules for what can and cannot be trademarked are not exactly clear-cut and simple.
Most of the time, they apply to specific goods – for famous individuals, trademarks oftentimes prevent people from selling faux merchandise, like phone cases or T-shirts, with lyrics, catchphrases, or names tied to specific celebrities.
Notably, registering for a trademark isn’t difficult, but being approved for one can be challenging and it can take over a year to complete the process. Plus, trademarks must be renewed every few years so they can stay active.
From fruits to common names and phrases, here are 11 strange or controversial things celebrities have tried to trademark.
Taylor Swift has tried to trademark her three cats’ names … but this isn’t her first trademark rodeo.
In June, TMZ reported that Taylor Swift had filed court documents to trademark her three cats’ names, “Meredith, Olivia & Benjamin Swift” for use on things like merchandise.
Her newest cat’s full name is Benjamin Button (like the character from the film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”). Swift recently met Benjamin Button on the set of her “Me!” music video, instantly fell in love, and decided to adopt him.
He joins her two other cats, which are named after TV characters – Meredith Grey (from “Grey’s Anatomy”) and Olivia Benson (from “Law & Order: SVU”). She reportedly previously tried to trademark their names back in 2018.
In the past, Swift has also reportedly tried to register trademarks for lyrics from some of her songs like “This sick beat,” from her single “Shake It Off” and “Nice to meet you. Where you been?” from her track “Blank Space.”
Controversially, Kim Kardashian once tried to trademark “Kimono.”
In June, Kim Kardashian was again accused of cultural appropriation after sharing a first look at a new shapewear line called Kimono, a play on her first name and also a reference to the traditional Japanese garment.
There was some backlash when the trademark for Kimono Intimates was initially filed in 2018, but Kim’s June 2019 reveal on Twitter reignited the controversy, giving rise to the hashtag #KimOhNo on the social-media platform.
Following the backlash, she released a statement to Insider saying she has “deep respect for the significance of the kimono in Japanese culture” and has no plans to make any garments resembling or dishonoring the traditional garment.
“Filing a trademark is a source identifier that will allow me to use the word for my shapewear and intimates line but does not preclude or restrict anyone, in this instance, from making kimonos or using the word kimono in reference to the traditional garment,” she said.
Drake tried to trademark the phrase “God’s Plan” in 2018.
In summer 2018, Drake reportedly filed a trademark for the phrase “God’s Plan,” a reference to the song from his album, “Scorpion.”
During a monologue a few days later, Stephen Colbert criticised Drake’s attempt to “own” the common religious phrase and jokingly questioned whether or not God would approve.
Per TMZ, the musician had plans to use the phrase for things like clothing, merchandise, and a TV game show.
Cardi B is trying to trademark “Okurrr” but many argue that it doesn’t belong to her.
In March, Cardi B filed a trademark application for both the word “Okurrr” and its misspelling “Okurr.” Per the filing, according to Rolling Stone, the trademark would mostly apply to clothing, such as T-shirts, pants, bodysuits, and dresses.
But shortly after she filed it, there was a lot of pushback from people who feel that she is not the rightful owner of this exaggerated version of “OK.”
Many say this phrase was first made popular by the drag community and has been being used by people in that community for years before Cardi B ever said it. According to some others, including Ru Paul, the phrase first entered the mainstream by Broadway actress Laura Bell Bundy, who used to have a YouTube character who said it, but even Bundy says that she actually first heard the phrase backstage at her show “Legally Blonde.”
Cardi B has said that she got “hooked on” the phrase from the Kardashians, but that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing the trademark.
“You think I ain’t going to profit off this s—?,” she said in an Instagram story responding to the backlash earlier this year, per Refinery 29. “White people do it all the [sic] time. So you’re going to be mad at me because I want to make some [sic] money? Let me tell you something – while I’m here, I’m going to secure all the f—ing bags.”
Her application was denied in July, per CNN.
Paris Hilton has trademarked her reality-show catchphrase “That’s hot.”
At the peak of her reality-television fame in the early 2000s, Paris Hilton trademarked her signature catchphrase, “That’s hot,” per CNN. She was known for saying it on her show “The Simple Life,” which she starred on with Nicole Richie.
Hilton sued Hallmark that same year after the company used her phrase and likeness on a parody card. Hallmark argued its usage of the phrase fell under the exercise of freedom of speech. The lawsuit was settled three years later in 2010.
Tom Brady tried to trademark a nickname he hated but it backfired.
Earlier in 2019, New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady and his team tried to trademark “Tom Terrific,” a nickname that he hated. He said he did so just so that he wouldn’t see it used on shirts and other merchandise.
He then faced backlash after many baseball fans argued the nickname was actually reserved for Hall-of-Fame baseball pitcher Tom Seaver.
In response, per New York Daily News, Brady said that he didn’t mean any offence and that he “was trying to keep people from using [the name] and then it got spun around to something different than what it was.”
Gene Simmons has tried to trademark a lot of stuff, including the “metal horns” hand gesture.
As one trademark and business law attorney told CNBC, it would be very unlikely for this trademark to be granted to Simmons because he’d have to prove this gesture was unique and “connected to [him] as an artist.” This would be nearly impossible considering this signal has been widely used for years.
Vice writer Drew Millard later wrote this trademark application off as a publicity stunt, reporting that Simmons has attempted to register over 182 trademarks over the years including “Topless Car Wash,” “I Want To Marry a Millionaire,” “S#it Girls Say,” and “?enis,” though only about 44 have been approved.
Donald Trump tried and failed to trademark his reality-TV phrase, “You’re fired!”
As a reality-television personality on the show “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump was famous for telling contestants that they were fired. But when he tried to trademark the phrase in 2004 for games, clothes, and “casino services,” he was rejected.
Per the New York Times, the US Patent and Trademark Office decided that this phrase was too close to an existing trademark for an educational game for middle-school students called “You’re Hired!”
That said, Trump reportedly has over 100 live trademarks including “Fifth Avenue” and “Trump Tower.”
Charlie Sheen tried to trademark some of his phrases, including “Tiger Blood.”
According to CNN, in 2011, Charlie Sheen and his team filed 22 trademark applications for his numerous phrases, including “Tiger Blood,” “Rock Star From Mars,” “Vatican Assassin,” “I’m Not Bi-Polar, I’m Bi-Winning,” and “Duh, Winning.”
Per Associated Press, Sheen’s spokesman, Larry Solters, said that if the trademarks are approved, they will figure out how they will use them later. It’s unclear whether any of the applications have been approved.
Rachel Zoe supposedly trademarked two of her famous reality-show catchphrases.
Around 2009, it seems fashion stylist Rachel Zoe successfully trademarked “Bananas” and “I die,” two phrases she commonly used on her former reality series “The Rachel Zoe Project.”
Per The Cut, that same year designer and fan of the show Christopher Sauvé tried to sell T-shirts featuring a symbolic depiction of both of Zoe’s phrases. He said he received a cease-and-desist letter from Zoe’s lawyer that said the phrases were trademarked by the celebrity stylist.
Suavé later told The Cut he hired a trademark attorney and vowed to launch a “Free the Fruit” campaign to stop fruits from being trademarked in the fashion world.
“Fruits have been expressing themselves for ages in the fashion world for far too long to be trademarked,” he told the publication.
After going viral for singing “rise and shine” to her daughter, Kylie Jenner is trying to trademark it.
Earlier this month, in October, Kylie Jenner went viral for singing the popular phrase “rise and shine” to her daughter, Stormi, in a YouTube clip that spurred a flurry of memes.
On Thursday, Kylie Jenner, Inc filed two applications to trademark that phrase, according to public records from the US Patent and Trademark Office.
One trademark was filed for cosmetics and the other was filed for apparel and accessories, like coats, dresses, and footwear.
That said, the star has already begun using variations of the phrase on merchandise. On Friday, she started selling two new hoodies with “riiise x” and “shiiinnee” printed on the sleeves.
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