‘What’s in a name?’ was a question posed by William Shakespeare in Act II Scene II of Romeo and Juliet. However, in the current buzz of awards season, Meryl Streep has decided to take action to protect herself from future commercial exploitation in a move that you might not expect; she has trademarked her own name.

This business-savvy, yet seemingly-ostentatious move might shock you at first, especially considering her actual birth name is ‘Mary Louise Streep’, however she is not the first celebrity, and will not be the last, to apply for exclusive rights to use their own names. Original Bond, Sean Connery, applied last year, all of the Beckham’s are trademarked, and Kylie (Jenner) and Kylie (Minogue), had a trademark stand-off early last year. Thankfully the Aussie popstar won. She should be so lucky…

Personal names aren’t the only things to be trademarked. Lots of weird and wonderful applications are submitted every year; Paris Hilton trademarked the phrase ‘that’s hot’, Walmart tried to trademark the yellow smiley face design, and Harley Davidson tried to trademark the sound of a revving engine, before other manufacturers complained that their engines sounded exactly the same. Even the current POTUS was denied an application to trademark his famous “you’re fired”. You can’t win them all, Donald. 

In order to trademark anything in America, you have to meet specific standards held by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The name needs to be significantly widely recognised in commerce. You also need to find a business use that your name will be accountable for, such as speaking engagements and live, televised, and movie appearances, under which Meryl Streep has applied for. However, as George Sevier wryly pointed out in a recent BBC article, ‘It seems unlikely that someone is going to offer after-dinner speaking in the name of Meryl Streep unless it is Meryl Streep’.

Anyone future Law students might want to think about what constitutes as intellectual property. Those hoping to study Linguistics or English may want to think about the power of a pronoun. Finally, any students also named Meryl Streep, might want to think about getting a nickname.

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