Online bloggers can build up phenomenal followings that can be monetised through advertising and endorsements. In a guideline decision, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has considered the extent to which their names, or very often the pseudonyms under which they operate, can be protected by trade marks.
The case concerned a young blogger who, going under a pseudonym, had become a major Internet personality with a fan base numbered in millions. He objected after a company applied to register the pseudonym as a trade mark in respect of clothing, headgear and footwear. He alleged that he had pre-dating rights in the pseudonym and that the company’s application had been made in bad faith.
It was argued that the blogger, by use of the pseudonym over a period of about seven years, had generated significant income streams and goodwill. His loyal followers had been eagerly awaiting the launch of his own branded merchandise, an enterprise that had been jeopardised by the company’s application.
In rejecting his opposition to the proposed trade mark, however, the IPO noted that there was no evidence that he had engaged in any trade in clothing goods, or indeed any goods, as at the date on which the company made its application. There was also no evidence that the company was seeking to take illegitimate advantage of his goodwill and his claim of bad faith could not hope to succeed.