It is a known fact that celebrities have a great impact on the audience and therefore, the advertisement industry highly depends on collaborating with celebrities in order to expand their brand value in the market. With the great potential and incentives that this endeavour brings, and as we know every coin has two sides, there is also another side to the story where the name and likeness of the celebrities are used without their consent given to take commercial advantages. Taking commercial gains by creating an illusion of involvement of such a celebrity with a brand not only causes loss to the celebrity in terms of licensing and endorsements but is also a violation of their right to publicity and reputation.
The Trademark law in India does not define the term ‘celebrity’. However, in layman’s terms, celebrities can be defined as people who enjoy public recognition by a group of people. A person cannot be registered as a Trademark and there is no legal justification to protect image marks as well. As per Section 2(zb) of the Act, “trademark” means a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include the shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours. The definition makes it clear that a trademark cannot be registered in isolation. It is registered to protect the brand value of a person.
We live in the age of social media. People are now more aware and are keen to know about what they are eating, wearing, travelling or products they are using etc. Since they are famous and have a significant influence on the public, they are asked to lend their name for promoting a wide range of products and services that helps in making them popular.
Many stars initiated the process of getting Trademarks merely to protect their image from getting used by others without their consent. It has been observed that celebrity names are clubbed with various goods and services. Some of the famous Celebrity trademark registrations are-.
Shah Rukh Khan has filed applications to register trademark ‘SRK’, in almost all the 45 classes. Sanjeev Kapoor has a registered trademark ‘SANJEEV KAPOOR KHAZANA’ which is registered in Class 29. Akshay Kumar has registered “KHILADI” as a trademark. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, has his initials ‘SRT’ trademarked. Amitabh Bachchan belongs to the long list of people who have trademarked their names and their images. There are many instances that happened in past that shows misuse of celebrities’ name. One such instance is when Kajol got in a controversy with her fake Id on social media. She learnt from her mistake and straight away applied to safeguard her name. She applied for Trademark in the following categories—including broadcasting, telecommunications, websites, sacks, bags, household utensils, carpets, rugs, tents, yarn and thread, among dozens of more items.
Many businessmen illegally use the name of a renowned celebrity without their permission to pitch their products. To prevent such malpractices from happening and to protect their goodwill and brand name, trademarking their names has become a must protective shield for celebrities. So the question of the hour is,” When are you getting your mark registered?!