Published 12/23/2022 by CIONCA IP - EC
Is Mariah Carey the “Queen of Christmas”?
With the #1 best-selling Christmas song in the United States, many may say “yes.” The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), however, says “no.”In 2021, Carey’s company—Lotion LLC—attempted to register word marks for “Queen of Christmas,” “QOC,” “Princess of Christmas,” and “Christmas Princess” in sixteen classes. The purpose of registering a trademark is to prevent others from using the mark in association with goods or services in specified categories, i.e. “classes.” It also gives the owner of the registered mark rights across the nation, as opposed to the geographically-limited rights one can have to a trademark that is in use but not registered. As such, the intent of Carey’s attempted move was to exclude anyone in the United States from selling goods like music recordings, clothing articles, fragrances and more using the “Queen of Christmas” and associated marks. Lotion LLC filed the applications on an intent-to-use (ITU) basis, signifying that—although there had been no use of the marks by Lotion LLC in commerce—the company had a good faith intention to do so, an intention that would eventually have had to have been backed up by an official Statement of Use.
In response to Carey’s bid for registration, Christmas singer and songwriter Elizabeth Chan filed an opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB). Although Carey’s applications had previously been approved by a USPTO trademark examiner, approved marks must be published for opposition in the Trademark Official Gazette for one month before they can register. During that month, any party may oppose registration of the marks if it has grounds to believe it would be damaged as a result.
Chan, in previously adopting the “Queen of Christmas” moniker and using it to promote her music, had already established some rights in the “Queen of Christmas” mark. The phrase “Queen of Christmas” appears on her website and social media pages, and it is the title of an album of hers released in late 2021. Chan has also referred to her daughter Noelle—who is featured in some of Chan’s music—as the “Princess of Christmas.”
Normally, the filing of an opposition results in a proceeding before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that is similar in format to a civil court case. Lotion LLC’s abstention from filing a response to Chan’s opposition by the September 2022 deadline, however, resulted in a judgment by default in favor of Chan and subsequent abandonment of Carey’s applications.
Had Carey’s applications resulted in registered marks, Chan—and media outlets in reference to Chan—would potentially have had to cease using the phrase “Queen of Christmas” to describe Chan or promote her music. The title of Chan’s 2021 album could also have been in jeopardy. TTAB’s decision does not mean that Chan now owns a registered “Queen of Christmas” mark, however, nor does it mean that Carey cannot use those words to sell products. Unless someone else makes a successful bid to register them, the phrases “Queen of Christmas,” “QOC,” “Princess of Christmas,” and “Christmas Princess” remain open to all.
In the end, Mariah Carey can still be *a* “Queen of Christmas.” She just won’t be the only one.
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