“Can You Own Your Name?”

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Metta World Peace. Chad Ochocinco. Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock. Legal name changes and registered trademarks. Is this legal trickery or a legitimate attempt at building and preserving a brand? Did you know that Freddie Mercury of Queen was born “Farrokh Bulsara” and he changed his name to conceal his Parsi heritage? Steven Tyler of Aerosmith changed his name from Stephen Tallarico to increase his promotional appeal as did Charlie Sheen. Charlie Sheen was born “Carlos Irwin Estevez.” Kal Penn from the popular movie, “Harold and Kumar” also changed his name from “Kalpen Modi” for career purposes.

Many celebrities and corporations own their names, business logos, symbols and particular sounds. Everything from Julia Roberts’ name, the Nike “swoosh,” and the NBC chimes have been trademarked. Morgan Freeman trademarked his name in 2005 after a company by the name of Mighty LLC used his name to divert traffic to a commercial search engine. Ralph Lauren registered his name as a trademark in 1972.

Donna Karan successfully sued a man who registered her domain name in bad faith. Many celebrities (A-list through to Z-list) are today licensing the use of their name to companies who produce popular consumer products such as perfume, clothing and jewelry.

A recent bizarre court case in Alberta dealt with the issue of whether one can own their name. In Bank of Montreal v. Rogozinsky, the defendant used a BMO MasterCard for 15 years, made payments on it and then suddenly ceased making payments. BMO sued the defendant for an outstanding balance of over $27,000 plus interest. The defendant counterclaimed against BMO for $6,000,000 for trademark and copyright infringement. Ms. Rogozinsky claimed she was not a legal resident of Alberta and that slavery was illegal. Not sure how that last argument related to her case! Not surprisingly, the Alberta Queen’s Bench dismissed Ms. Rogozinsky’s claim.

Can you really own your name? The simple answer is “Yes” if your name satisfies certain criteria for it to be registered as a trademark with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. One of the most important assets your business possesses is its brand. It represents your company’s reputation and the quality of the products and services associated with your brand. When customers connect your products and services to your brand you gain from customer loyalty and repeat sales.

In Canada, the way to protect your brand is to register it as a trademark. Registration protects your trademark from misuse and gives you the exclusive rights to use it throughout Canada for a period of 15 years. Registrations can be renewed for subsequent time periods.

Be diligent. Always protect your brand.

Consult an experienced legal professional to support you with all of your business and legal needs.

With this in mind, C2K Law Corporation provides timely legal advice in relation to all types of corporate/commercial and business law matters. We strive to deliver an affordable, value-added service to suit your individual needs. We recognize that you are concerned about the costs of legal services. We do our best to provide a low cost value added service by leveraging technology and reducing overhead expenses passing the savings on to you. We use our entrepreneurship in our creative problem-solving approach, which enables us to take immediate and decisive action.

*The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Bal Bhullar
Bal Bhullar is a corporate/commercial lawyer who owns and operates C2K Law Corporation. Bal has over 20 years of international and domestic practice experience. He has worked in private practice in Vancouver and Bermuda as well as in-house with public and private companies in the mining, aviation, telecom and technology, construction, oil and propane, insurance, management consulting and health care industries. Bal's areas of expertise include corporate finance, banking law, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, corporate restructurings, governance and compliance, company law, contracts and all types of commercial transactions. Bal is the member of the Law Society of B.C. and is admitted as a Barrister and Attorney in Bermuda. Bal is a business savvy lawyer who is solutions oriented and focused on delivering high value advice and service to all of his clients.