Personal Name for Trademark
A name mark refers to use/ register the name of any natural person as trademark or the main part of a trademark.
Article 8 of Trademark Law of People’s Republic of China:
Any mark, consisting of words, devices, letters, numbers, three-dimensional marks, combined colors, sounds, etc., or the combination of said factors, that can distinguish the goods of a natural person, legal entity or other organization from those goods of others, can be applied as a trademark for registration.
Also, the law never says a name cannot be registered or the name of a celebrity cannot be used as trademarks. But in Article 32 of the law, it says:
“The applicant for trademark registration shall not be allowed to harm other person’s prior rights.”
and the rights including a name right.
Therefore, any applicant who applies for a trademark of his/her own name is not likely to get in trouble with infringement, but those who use others’ name or a celebrity’s as trademarks, especially in goods/services that will spoil the images of them is likely to be involved in infringement.
Common knowledge is that any name of political leaders at home or aboard and leaders on the stage of current political circles, is not allowed to register. Even if the name is used in a good way, it is inevitable having bad influences on the owner or his/her family, causing negative effects on the society or even hurting the political life of the owner. Therefore, names such as “Kofi Annan”, “Bill Clinton”, “George Bush”, “HU Jingtao”, “WEN Jiabao”, etc., are not allowed to register. According Article 10 Section 8 of Trademark Law, signs having the nature of discrimination against any nationality shall not be used as a trademark.
Using the name of a historical figure as trademark may not violate other person’s prior rights, but in actual examination, the examiners shall cross-check the claimed goods/services with the images of that historical figure, making sure the registration of that name has no harm to the social morality or other bad influences.
In real life, people often share a same name, which increases the difficulty in examination. Obviously, it is unreasonable to forbid any person to use his/her own name as trademark, even if the name is identical with others. Additionally, when it comes to celebrities whose fame is always developing and changing, defining they are public figures need to consider how deep will he/she affect the society, how is the number of follows he/she has, etc. Therefore, the non-registered name right of public figures shall be limited in the relevant areas of his/her professions. Once out of those areas, the use of an identical name shall be approved.
Many Chinese names have multiple meanings. The usage of those names shall be approved once the applicant can provide evidences that he/she is applying for the trademark in a good will and the public doesn’t associate it with the name of a person.