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What’s in a Name? Rihanna Sues Father for Using Fenty Name

28 Jan What’s in a Name? Rihanna Sues Father for Using Fenty Name

Pop star Rihanna recently filed a lawsuit against her father for trademark infringement. The trademark in question is for a company called “Fenty Entertainment,” which claims to be a talent and production company.

However, Rihanna already has a trademark on the “Fenty” line of cosmetic products, lingerie, and sneakers. She registered this mark in 2014. The pop star, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, claims that her father’s company is misappropriating her name and misrepresenting itself as being affiliated with her.

Rihanna is also claiming that her father has lied to investors about her involvement with the company, that he is authorized to act on her behalf, and that she will perform at certain events around the world. She is asking the court for a declaration that the defendants can not:

  • Use the Fenty trademark or other term confusingly similar to her name, or
  • Falsely promote a business affiliation wither her or authority to speak or make contracts on her behalf.

She is also seeking an injunction against the defendants from performing these activities, as well as unspecified damages for the damage caused by the defendant’s actions.

The case, No. 2:19-cv-307, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on January 15, 2019. The full complaint can be found here.

Trademarking Names

The US Trademark Office will only grant trademark protection to names under certain situations:

First, the individual whose name is being utilized must file a statement consenting for the trademark to be issued. For example, there are several marks involving the name “Chuck Norris.” Each mark has a statement that Mr. Norris has given consent for this mark to be registered.

Second, the name must be used in commerce. It is common for entertainment figures to trademark their names. Business owners also often seek trademark protection on their personal names if the name is part of their company name. Entertainers, professional athletes, and business owners all use their names as their brands and make a significant amount of money due to public recognition of those names.

Filing for trademark protection allows entertainers and business owners to prevent others from profiting off their fame – just as Rihanna is doing now.

Third, the name must mean something more than just the name. The Trademark Office will not register a mark that is primarily a surname, unless there is a showing of acquired distinctiveness. That is, does the public recognize the name as being significant?

Public figures, including Rhianna, are able to meet the Trademark Office’s requirements by consenting to use their name with their mark, by using their name in commerce, and by demonstrating that their celebrity or fame has meaning to the general public.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. If you are interested in speaking with a business litigation lawyer regarding trademark infringement, contact Heerde Blum LLP by calling 213-770-5757 or 212-920-5858 or by filling out the online contact form.