Name or likeness of a particular living individual in a trademark

Individuals have a right to privacy and a right to control how their name, likeness, and identity is used. If your trademark appears to include the name, signature, or portrait of a particular living individual, your trademark can only be registered with the written consent of that individual. 

If your trademark includes the following, the USPTO will usually issue an office action asking if the name or likeness identifies a particular living individual and requires you to provide a written consent from that individual: 

  • A full name (first name or initials followed by a surname (a last name)) that could identify a particular living individual.  
  • A first name only, nickname, stage name, title, pseudonym (such as a pen name), or surname only that identifies a well-known or famous person or someone who has some public recognition under that name in connection with the relevant industry, business entity, goods, or services. 
  • A fairly realistic likeness or portrait that could identify a particular living individual. 

The USPTO may refuse registration of the trademark if either consent is not provided or the trademark falsely suggests a connection with the identified individual. For more information about these refusals, see TMEP Sections 1203.03(b)-(b)(iii), 1206-1206.05

Examples of names or likenesses that could identify or show a particular living individual

  • First name only: BEYONCÉ, USHER, and OPRAH
  • Surname only: FENTY, BECKHAM, and TRUMP
  • Pseudonym: ROBERT GALBRAITH, J. K. ROWLING for the writer Joanna Rowling, and RALPH LAUREN for the designer Ralph Rueben Lifshitz 
  • Stage name: CHER, POST MALONE, and MR. T 
  • Nickname: THE BOSS for Bruce Springsteen, and TIGER WOODS for Eldrick Woods
  • Signature of a full name:
signature of professional athlete Shaquille O’Neal

(signature of Shaquille O'Neal)

signature of actor Anthony Hopkins

(signature of Anthony Hopkins)

  • Portrait of an individual(s):

Portrait of President Obama

(portrait of former President Obama)

photograph of Chef Paul Prudhomme framed in a gold line with a banner at the bottom containing his name

(portrait of Paul Prudhomme)

  • Likeness of an individual(s):
white silhouette of a football player holding a football while mid-air

(likeness of Priest Holmes)

black silhouette images of Elwood and Jake, the Blue Brothers

(likeness of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi)

For more information about these requirements, see TMEP Sections 813-813.01(c), 1206.04

Response options and TEAS form instructions  

If you received an office action, you must explain to the USPTO whether the name, portrait, likeness, or signature identifies or shows a particular living person.