Jamie Durie’s star is on the rise. And with the announcement that he’s moving to Channel Seven — in addition to his signed deal with Oprah Winfrey — it may be time for the patio guru to consider further protecting his very own brand. Jamie’s already proven pretty savvy when it comes to branding himself; he has four marks registered (“Patio by Jamie Durie”, “Jamie Durie Outside Living”, “Outside with Jamie Durie”, “The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie”) with another pending.

The appeal factor that a celebrity can bring to an advertising campaign underpins a global multi-million dollar industry, and smart celebs are increasingly keen to control both the use of their personality and most importantly their image by trademarking their name, signature and image. Greg Norman, Elle McPherson and our Kylie are very good at this; between them they’ve registered 15 marks in over 50 classes of goods and services.

Registering a trademark is one key way a celebrity can develop his or her “corporate” branding strategy while engaging in commercial exploitation such as name licensing, clothing lines, perfume and hygiene products, sporting goods and embracing product endorsements on a perceived value to consumers basis.

While activity on the trade mark register continues apace in Australia, the situation in the US is slightly different. In America, both common law and legislation recognise “personality rights” incorporating publicity and privacy rights. The right of publicity in the US essentially means the celebrity’s right to the commercial value of their fame. It’s considered “additional to and independent of their right of privacy”. Under US law, a person’s name, image or other aspects of personality can’t be used on merchandise without their consent.

Australian law has no formal “personality rights” but there are options available when seeking to protect or exploit personality, such as defamation, an action for “passing off” or under the Trade Practices Act for misleading or deceptive conduct. Paul Hogan successfully used the passing off/trade practices approach to defend his Crocodile Dundee character from any would-be “personality poachers”.

And if Kylie, Greg, Elle and Jamie are all doing it, maybe it won’t be too long before Eddie McGuire decides to get his name on the trademarks register. He’d better move quickly: the word “Eddie” has already been taken by Delaware based company Huck Patents Inc in class 6 dealing with “all goods in this class including nuts and bolts”.

Peter Fray

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