Branded About; Professors Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox to trademark their own names

Following the box office sensation “The Theory of Everything”, which was released in cinemas at the end of last year depicting the life of Professor Stephen Hawking, the famous scientist has sought to trade mark his own name. Hawking, along with fellow scientist Brian Cox, have both applied to the Intellectual Property Office to have their respective names formally registered. Hawking’s primary motivation for trade marking his name is for charitable purposes and will likely see the scientist set up a foundation to further research into motor neurone disease, the crippling condition that left him paralysed at just 21 years of age.

Ailsa Pemberton

Ailsa Pemberton

Hawkins and Cox are not the first celebrities seeking to protect their own image rights. The world of sport led the way in a major change to the image rights of celebrities when in 2002 motor racing ace, Eddie Irvine, won a case against Talk Radio for manipulating a photograph of him to make it look like he endorsed the service.  The ruling earned Irvine £25,000 compensation at the time but the case has proved to be a landmark ruling for other sports stars enjoying much greater financial gains as a consequence.  This forced legal system of England and Wales to confirm the rights of all well known people to control the use of their image and hence, recognise their right to payment for the endorsement of products and services.

The ‘Godfather’ of registering his name as a trademark is our very own, David Beckham, who has done so in almost every territory across the globe. Perhaps the greatest catalyst for his move from European giants Real Madrid to the United States’ LA Galaxy centred around the former club’s policy of dividing their ‘Galacticos’ endorsements relating to image rights 50:50 between the club and the player. Negotiations broke down between Real Madrid and Beckham as he sought to gain complete control of his commercial income.  Real Madrid’s fan base at that time was estimated to be in the region of 0.5 Billion worldwide, with Beckham ‘23’ replica shirts the must have item. Beckham instead took his brand to America where his guaranteed salary of $32.5 million over 5 years was eclipsed by the $217.5 million which was amassed through his intellectual property earnings in a total deal reported to be worth $250 million.

Another ‘Galactico’ that succeeded in registering an approved trademark with the Intellectual Property Office was Gareth Bale. His infamous ‘Eleven of Hearts’ goal celebration which he now uses as a logo on clothing, footwear, and head gear brings in over a reported £3 million a year from the ‘love heart’ trademark.

It is clear that celebrities are eager to prevent others exploiting their fame and notoriety by controlling the use and commercial value of their names and images. In our previous blog we discussed the overnight explosion of the term ‘LINsanity’ following the meteoric rise to fame of Jeremy Lin in the NBA. There is no doubt that Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane will be seeking to protect his image rights such as registering ‘Kane 18’ in the same fashion as the player he is being most compared to Alan Shearer (‘Shearer 9’) who was one of the first footballers to register their name and number as a trademark.

Ailsa Pemberton
Intellectual Property Team
0113 227 9260

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