Patent to be taken to prevent misuse of name and use it for charity
GN Bureau | March 30, 2015
After the success of a movie based on his life, British physicist Stephen Hawking has been encouraged to trademark his name.
Seventy-three-year-old Hawking has applied to the Intellectual Property Office to have his name formally registered, and the primary aim is to prevent others from exploiting his name with inappropriate products.
His fame was recently boosted by the Oscar-winning success of the film 'The Theory of Everything'.
Other UK celebrities who have turned their names into brands are Harry Potter series author JK Rowling and sports personDavid Beckham.
“It’s a personal matter for Stephen Hawking; it is not a university issue, but he has taken measures to protect his name and the success it has brought,” said a spokesman for Cambridge University, where he is Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.
Hawking has applied to get his name trademarked for charitable purposes, giving him the option of setting up a foundation, such as one to promote physics or for research into motor neurone disease. It will also cover computer games, powered wheelchairs, greetings cards and health care.
Chris McLeod, president of the Institute of Trademark Attorneys, said the move could be worth millions of pounds.
In the US, it is not illegal for the US Patent and Trademark Office to register a person's name as part of a trademark, but it only grants this level of protection to names that are widely used in commerce or are unique. Trademarks are granted to protect established brand names from inferior competition. In most cases, a person can't trademark his name, but other protections can help business owners protect the use of their name if it is used in association with business.
The USPTO warns applicants that it is unlikely to register surnames or an individual's name or likeliness for trademark protection unless certain conditions are met. The individual must formally file a statement of consent for the trademark, unless in the case of a coined name. She must prove that the name has a "secondary meaning" by being part of a unique brand that is used in marketing and commerce and is widely recognized. In some cases, a name can be trademarked when it is one of a kind, but it requires substantial evidence to prove this.
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