“In a perfect world, one could imagine both Morales’ ‘Blue Ivy’ and Beyoncé’s ‘Blue Ivy Carter’ trademarks living side by side both on the trademark register and in actual use…. What likely follows is a drawn-out trademark battle, while the fate of the Blue Ivy Carter mark hangs in the balance.”
Beyoncé is more than just one of the music industry’s most recognizable stars. She has built a business empire that extends into entertainment production, fashion, major product endorsements and even streaming music distribution through the Tidal platform with her husband, Jay-Z. Forbes named Beyoncé its Most Powerful Woman in Entertainment on two occasions, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
With such a track record of success, it should come as no surprise that Beyoncé is extremely savvy about the importance and value of personal branding and intellectual property. Through her BGK Trademark Holdings, LLC, the singer owns a number of trademarks related to various products and services, ranging from clothing and accessories to cosmetics and charitable services.
The Battle for “Blue Ivy”
Case in point: Beyoncé is engaged in a fierce trademark battle with the owner of a Massachusetts wedding planning business over “Blue Ivy”—the name shared by the wedding event business and the singer’s young daughter.
Beyoncé has attempted to trademark “Blue Ivy Carter” for years and has filed applications that cover a number of goods, including baby apparel, books, cosmetics and more. However, business owner Veronica Morales says she called her business “Blue Ivy Events” before the artist’s child was even born. Morales also received a trademark registration from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the mark “Blue Ivy” in 2012 for event planning services. She says Beyoncé should not be allowed to trademark “Blue Ivy Carter” as a result.
So, in May 2017, Morales filed a notice of opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) challenging Beyoncé’s “Blue Ivy Carter” filing. The filing claims that the “Blue Ivy Carter” mark infringes Morales’ Blue Ivy mark and that Beyoncé and Jay-Z have no intention of using the “Blue Ivy Carter” trademark in commerce, as claimed in the trademark application.
Instead, Morales’ attorneys say the famous couple simply wants to control the Blue Ivy name to keep others from using it—something that generally is frowned upon in U.S. trademark law. Companies that file for trademark protection are expected to have a bona fide commercial use for those trademarks. But in a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Jay-Z indicated that the Carter family had no intention to market the “Blue Ivy Carter” trademark.
Taking it to the TTAB
In January 2018, the TTAB rejected Beyoncé’s request to keep certain aspects of the trademark dispute with Morales confidential. The TTAB also denied Morales’ motion to compel Beyoncé’s participation in deposition proceedings.
But Queen Bey is fighting back. In court documents obtained by The Blast in late September, Beyoncé’s attorneys say Morales’ claim that “consumers are likely to be confused between a boutique wedding event planning business and Blue Ivy Carter, the daughter of two of the most famous performers in the world, is frivolous and should be refused in its entirety.” They also noted that Beyoncé is seeking a trademark for “Blue Ivy Carter,” which creates a clear distinction from the aforementioned Blue Ivy wedding event business.
The singer’s attorneys also claim that Morales is “attempting to connect [her] brand with Blue Ivy Carter to increase its exposure and drum up business.”
This isn’t the first high-profile trademark battle Beyoncé has been involved with in recent months. Late last year, a federal court rejected the artist’s request for a permanent injunction against Feyonce, Inc. U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan of the Southern District of New York ruled that there was not indisputable evidence that confusion between the two brands was likely.
Fodder to the Fire
In a perfect world, one could imagine both Morales’ “Blue Ivy” and Beyoncé’s “Blue Ivy Carter” trademarks living side by side both on the trademark register and in actual use. That may be unrealistic, however, as Morales filed an application in 2018 for “Blue Ivy” in Class 3 for various products, most of which are unrelated to that class, presumably to assert rights for products related to Beyoncé’s Blue Ivy Carter application and to add further fodder to this trademark dispute fire. Interestingly enough, Morales’ most recent application was refused based on other Blue Ivy registrations and the Blue Ivy Carter application itself.
What likely follows is a drawn-out trademark battle, while the fate of the Blue Ivy Carter mark hangs in the balance. The parties could settle, and this could all go away, but if not, the question remains whether both marks can actually coexist. The answer is the classic legal response, “it depends.” But Morales may have something else to prove here; either Morales is really good at causing a stir for publicity, or she wants it known that no one, not even Queen Bey herself, is above trademark law.
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