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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mark a Name for Yourself

Sometimes a surname is more than a surname. Sometimes it's a trademark.

It's become de rigueur in recent years for celebrities to protect their "brands" by registering their names with the Trademark Office. Type the name of a certain musical performer into the trademark search engine, and you'll find out why there's only one "Neil Diamond" selling records to swooning retirees.

The case of Donald and Ivana Trump is a bit more tricky. He's opposing his ex-wife's bid to trademark the term "Ivana Trump" for use in her own real-estate business, arguing that the public will be confused. But it's not really that confusing: Donald is that guy with the popular reality show who reminds you of your imperious, toady-loving boss; and Ivana is that woman with the unpopular reality show who reminds you of Zsa Zsa Gabor.

To end on a more genealogical note, the search engine will also tell you who's been using your surname for business purposes, and what business enterprises you can safely slap your name on. Good news: I'm prevented from starting a Dunham shoe company, but there's no legal reason why I can't become a popular recording artist.

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