What’s in a name? Who owns “Christmas”?
It may only be August, but the subject of Christmas is already a hot topic within the music industry, and Santa’s ears are probably burning!
It started in early 2021 when the trademark holding company of Ms. Mariah Carey applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the “USPTO”) to register “QUEEN OF CHRISTMAS” (together with its acronym “QOC”) along with “CHRISTMAS PRINCESS”, “PRINCESS CHRISTMAS” as trademarks.
These trademarks were for a wide range of goods and services, including fragrance, musical recordings, bags, mugs, clothing, drinks, even sanitary masks and Christmas decorations.
By applying to register “QUEEN OF CHRISTMAS”, “CHRISTMAS PRINCESS”, “PRINCESS CHRISTMAS” as trademarks, Ms. Carey is basically saying only she can use the titles across a wide range of products.
She is also asserting that consumers would associate goods and services sold under the marks with her and no one else.
Once the marks are registered, anyone who wants to use the titles commercially would need to obtain a licence from Ms. Carey’s company or face the risk of legal proceedings.
Whilst she may be closely associated with Christmas and has perhaps one of the most successful Christmas records of all time, Ms. Carey’s moves have prompted a fierce reaction from other songwriters and artists, including Ms. Elizabeth Chan and Ms. Darlene Love, both renowned for their Christmas music and also frequently bestowed with the title of “Queen of Christmas” .
So incensed was Ms. Chan that she filed an opposition proceeding with the USPTO in August 2022 in a bid to stop Ms. Carey’s registration of the “QUEEN OF CHRISTMAS” mark.
In her grounds of opposition , Ms. Chan pointed out that numerous other artists, such as Ms. Love and Ms. Brenda Lee have also been dubbed with the “Queen of Christmas” title.
Also that Ms. Carey herself had publicly “disowned” the title in a recent interview in 2021, stating “I just want to humbly say that I don’t consider myself that [myself as the Queen of Christmas]” and that “[Virgin] Mary is the Queen of Christmas.”
Ms. Chan said in an interview with Variety, “I feel very strongly that no one person should hold onto anything around Christmas or monopolize it in the way that Mariah seeks to in perpetuity. That’s just not the right thing to do. Christmas is for everyone. It’s meant to be shared; it’s not meant to be owned.”
In the circumstances, perhaps the most sensible thing for Ms. Carey to do is, as suggested by Ms. Chan’s attorneys, withdraw the trade mark application and let the titles remain in the public domain for all.
For the spirit of Christmas?