Can you use personal name as a trademark?

Trademark is a piece of intellectual property that serves to protect individuality and distinctiveness of your brand. A name is usually perceived as one of the core aspects of somebody’s individuality. A combination of a first name and surname, or a nickname, is something we come to identify by and how we are distinguished from others. It’s what makes us unique and special. But does that mean that a personal name can and should be trademarked?


Igor Demcak

Short answer: yes. There are no rules that forbid the registration of personal names in the UK, except for the names of members of the Royal Family. The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) permits applications for trademarks that include first names, surnames, or both [1]. In the United States, you can only own a trademark that includes a personal name if you have used or intend to use it in commerce.

Why Register Personal Name as a Trademark

Registering your name as a trademark is an effective way to prevent other people from taking advantage of a reputation behind your name for their own profit. This is why trademarking a name is especially common for public figures such as celebrities or politicians. Many famous people such as Katty Perry, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Victoria Beckham, and even less obvious figures like U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have all trademarked their names. However, when they do so, there is a specific purpose behind it.

Trademarks only apply to products, services, or businesses that people can engage with at that time of registration. That means you can’t reserve a name from being used as a mark in commerce unless you are using it yourself for that purpose. Having a large portfolio with trademarks that protect different classes of goods and services could have a great benefit, as it helps marketing merchandise of different kinds, from clothing to toys, foods, and beauty products.

Things to Keep In Mind When Trademarking Personal Names

When registering a trademark that includes a surname, there is a relatively high risk of the application being rejected if the term is considered to be primarily merely a surname. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) has identified the following factors in determining whether a trademark is primarily merely a surname [2]:

  1. whether the surname is rare;

  2. whether the trademark is the surname of anyone connected with the applicant;

  3. whether the trademark has any alternative meanings other than as a surname (i.e., non-surname significance);

  4. whether the trademark has the structure and pronunciation of a surname;

  5. whether the stylization of lettering is distinctive enough to create a separate commercial impression.

One way to avoid rejection when applying for a trademark that includes a surname is to increase its distinctiveness by adding first name, titles, more generic words that can be combined with your name, or considering stylizing it with fonts or graphics.


Trademarking is not a privilege of solely celebrities. Anybody can tademark their personal name, but before naming a brand after yourself it is important to take necessary precautions. Make sure to check that there are no existing identical or similar trademark registrations in the countries where you are planning to operate your business, or if they are not registered for goods and services that are similar to yours. This will significantly decrease the chances of opposition and save you the trouble of future legal complications.


[1] Mewburn, „Registering personal names as trade marks: steps to consider before naming a fashion brand after yourself“, available from: I register my own,first names%2C surnames or both.

[2] Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure. (July 2021). avaiable from:

Igor Demcak
Igor Demcak

Trademark Attorney

Founder of Trama

7 year experience in IP protection

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