Content creators, or influencers, are becoming business owners with million-dollar businesses and have to learn the tenets of business, such as intellectual property. New businesses have the challenge of creating and developing successful brands, but influencers have the challenge of turning a successful brand into a well-protected and long-lasting business.
One way they can protect the longevity of their brand? Trademarks.
Why do influencers need trademarks?
Influencers create and post online content, such as videos or pictures. From this content, an influencer amasses groups of followers, who are invested in the influencer’s stories, ideas, and opinions. They create a niche on the internet around a specific subject, and, oftentimes, in conjunction with their online content, create product lines or additional companies that relate to their online persona.
Both the influencer’s image and content, as well as the product line or services they offer, are protectable under trademark law.
Because content creators, and thus their brands, are so highly visible to millions online, there is an increased chance that an influencer’s identity or other business plans will be copied or stolen and passed off as someone else’s.
Trademark protection provides a safeguard for a brand and its related intellectual property, which can identify the brand. A federal trademark registration is likely to limit this type of fraud and exploitative behavior.
A trademark can be used to protect a name, slogan, logo, and any other elements of a social media influencer’s brand. This protection provides security for the influencers’ online identity as it is now, and can also lay the groundwork to protect additional business ideas should an influencer capitalize on their online niche in the future.
It is not uncommon for influencers to expand their brand once they have reached a certain level of popularity. For example:
- A YouTube influencer, known for skincare content, starts a company selling face serums.
- An interior design Instagram influencer who begins marketing their own line of home decor.
- A BookTok influencer who expands their brand into literary podcasts.
What can influencers protect with a trademark registration?
So, what can a social media influencer protect?
The most important item for an influencer to protect is their online name or likeness, which is the name the influencer is known by to their followers.
Controlling the rights to your influencer name/likeness is essential to maintaining an online persona.
However, a trademark registration doesn’t mean that you can use your trademark for everything under the sun. Trademark applicants also have to identify the goods and services that they are offering/plan to offer under their brand. This identification helps to set the scope of rights and protection that a trademark will receive.
As a general rule, any good or service an influencer is offering to consumers can be protected. In the context of personal brands, this could be:
- a personal website where influencers write blogs.
- a YouTube or Twitch channel where an influencer publishes videos.
- a podcast where influencers provide commentary on business ideas.
- personal appearances and speaking engagements.
Additionally, many singers and musicians have recently been “discovered” from TikTok or YouTube and then is approached by large companies. If these artists already have a registered trademark for their name or moniker, it can give them a leg up and show business savvy before signing formal contracts.
Influencers can also create brands as an offshoot of their public persona. These breakout brands also have trademarks that should be protected. Examples of breakout brands include restaurants, fitness companies, cosmetics empires, home goods products, jewelry and clothing lines, books, and personal services companies. These breakout brands are collectively worth millions and are all worthy of intellectual property protection.
Trademark registrations can help prevent others from stealing or profiting off an influencer’s ideas and consumer loyalty.
Examples of social media influencers who own registered trademarks
1. Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk, also known as “GaryVee,” is a dynamic entrepreneur and motivational speaker. He’s renowned for his expertise in digital marketing and social media strategy. With his captivating speaking style and innovative insights, Gary inspires individuals worldwide to seize opportunities and achieve their goals.
- Gary Vaynerchuk
- Gary Vee
- Vee Friends
- The 5s
2. Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss, a multifaceted author and lifestyle strategist, is celebrated for his pioneering approaches to productivity and personal growth. best known for his bestselling book “The 4-Hour Workweek,” he has revolutionized the way people approach work-life balance and time management. Through his podcasts, writing, and public speaking, Tim empowers individuals to optimize their lives and achieve remarkable results through unconventional methods.
Tim Ferriss owns over 30 trademark registrations, including:
- Timothy Ferriss
- Tim Ferriss
3. Maria Forleo
Marie Forleo is a renowned entrepreneur, writer, and motivational speaker. With a passion for empowering individuals to create meaningful and successful lives, Forleo founded B-School, an online business training program that has impacted thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs. Through her dynamic personality, insightful videos, and best-selling book “Everything is Figureoutable,” she has inspired a global audience to pursue their dreams, overcome obstacles, and cultivate a resilient mindset for both personal and professional achievement.
- Marie Forleo
- Time Genius
Social Media/Lifestyle Content Influencers
1. David Dobrik
David Dobrik is a Slovak-born American social media sensation and content creator. He gained widespread fame through his vlogs, which he shares on platforms like YouTube and TikTok. Dobrik’s charismatic presence, quick wit, and innovative video concepts have attracted a massive online following, propelling him to become one of the leading influencers of his generation. He has built a strong community of fans, known as the “Vlog Squad,” and has ventured into various entertainment projects, including hosting roles, philanthropic endeavors, and collaborations with fellow celebrities.
David Dobrik owns over 5 trademark registrations, including:
- Views with David Dobrik & Jason Nash
- David’s Perfume
2. MrBeast/Jimmy Donaldson
MrBeast is a prominent American YouTuber and philanthropist, known for his ambitious and often jaw-dropping stunts. MrBeast gained immense popularity by creating videos that involved extreme challenges, generous acts of charity, and unconventional social experiments. Through his captivating personality, creative concepts, and commitment to making a positive impact, MrBeast has not only amassed a massive online following but has also demonstrated the potential for digital platforms to bring about real-world change.
MrBeast owns over 20 trademark registrations, including:
- Beast Reacts
- MrBeast Burger
- Beast Philanthropy
- MrBeast Gaming
3. Zoe Sugg
Zoe Sugg, widely known as Zoella, is a prominent British social media influencer, author, and businesswoman. Rising to fame in the early 2010s through her engaging fashion, beauty, and lifestyle videos on YouTube, Zoella quickly became a beloved figure in the online world. Beyond her digital presence, she’s also authored successful young adult novels and lifestyle books, further connecting with her audience. Her impact on both the digital and commercial fronts underscores her role as a trailblazer in the world of online content and entrepreneurship.
- Zoe Sugg
- Magpie Society
4. Emma Chamberlain
Emma Chamberlain is a prominent American YouTuber and social media influencer. Rising to fame for her relatable and candid vlogs, Emma has captured the hearts of millions with her authentic personality, witty humor, and commentary on everyday life. Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, she quickly gained a massive following by sharing her unfiltered experiences, fashion hauls, and personal anecdotes, effectively redefining the vlogging landscape for a new generation. With her distinctive style and genuine approach, Emma Chamberlain remains a prominent figure in the world of online content creation.
Emma Chamberlain owns 3 trademarks, including:
- Emma Chamberlain
- Chamberlain Coffee
Food Content Influencers
1. Claire Saffitz
Claire Saffitz is a renowned American pastry chef, cookbook author, and culinary personality. Best known for her time as a host on the hit YouTube series “Gourmet Makes” by Bon Appétit, Claire captivated audiences with her meticulous and creative approach to recreating iconic snacks and treats from scratch. Her expertise in the world of baking and her engaging on-screen presence earned her a dedicated fanbase and widespread recognition. Beyond her YouTube success, Claire has also authored cookbooks and contributed to culinary publications, solidifying her status as a respected figure in the culinary world.
Claire Saffitz owns 2 trademarks, including:
- Dessert Person
2. Joshua Weissman
Joshua Weissman is an American chef, cookbook author, and YouTube personality. Rising to prominence through his engaging cooking tutorials and approachable culinary expertise, Joshua has become a popular figure in the online food community. From recreating fast-food favorites to crafting gourmet dishes, Joshua’s content appeals to both novice cooks and seasoned food enthusiasts alike. Through his passion for cooking and dedication to sharing his culinary knowledge, he has successfully inspired and empowered audiences to experiment and thrive in the kitchen.
- Joshua Weissman
- But Cheaper
1. Michelle Lewin
Michelle Lewin is a prominent Venezuelan fitness model, bodybuilder, and social media sensation. She has amassed a huge following on social media, where she shares her fitness journey, workout routines, and wellness advice. Rising from humble beginnings, she has transformed her passion for fitness into a thriving career, inspiring countless people to prioritize their physical and mental well-being. With her infectious positivity, transformative success story, and commitment to healthy living, Michelle Lewin continues to impact and inspire people around the world to achieve their fitness goals.
- Michelle Lewin
- Triple Z
2. Shaun T
Shaun T is a prominent American fitness influencer, renowned for his transformative impact on the wellness industry. As the creator of iconic workout programs such as “Insanity” and “T25,” he has garnered a massive following by utilizing his high-energy coaching style and innovative exercise routines to motivate individuals around the globe. Beyond his dynamic workouts, Shaun T’s magnetic personality and relatable journey have solidified his position as a powerful influencer, inspiring people of all fitness levels to embark on healthier lifestyles. Through his engaging content and motivational messages, he continues to leverage his influence to drive positive change, encouraging followers to not only achieve their fitness aspirations but also embrace a holistic approach to well-being.
Shaun T owns 9 trademarks, including:
- Shaun T
- Fitmoji by Shaun T
- Trust and Believe with Shaun T
- Shaun T Fitness
- Give Deeper
1. Molly Mae
Molly-Mae Hague is a prominent British social media influencer, reality TV star, and entrepreneur. Rising to fame as a contestant on the popular reality show “Love Island,” Molly-Mae’s captivating personality and relatable demeanor quickly garnered her a devoted following. Leveraging her platform, she transitioned into the world of influencer marketing, collaborating with brands and sharing her fashion-forward style, beauty tips, and lifestyle insights with her audience. Additionally, Molly-Mae has launched her own fashion and beauty lines, showcasing her business acumen and expanding her impact beyond the digital realm.
Molly Mae owns 4 trademarks, including:
- Filter by Molly-Mae
2. Michelle Phan
Michelle Phan is a trailblazing Vietnamese-American beauty entrepreneur, makeup artist, and social media guru. Rising to fame through her YouTube channel, she revolutionized the beauty industry by sharing transformative makeup tutorials and skincare tips, amassing a vast online following. With a commitment to empowering individuals through self-expression, she has inspired countless aspiring beauty enthusiasts to embrace their unique identities. Michelle’s impact as a digital influencer and her entrepreneurial endeavors have solidified her legacy as a driving force behind the convergence of beauty, technology, and personal empowerment.
- Michelle Phan
3. Jackie Aina
Jackie Aina is a prominent Nigerian-American beauty influencer, makeup artist, and advocate for inclusivity in the beauty industry. Renowned for her candid product reviews, makeup tutorials, and insightful discussions about diversity and representation, Jackie has become a powerful voice for change. Her impactful collaborations with brands and her unwavering commitment to amplifying underrepresented voices have propelled her to the forefront of the beauty community. With her authenticity, advocacy, and creative expertise, Jackie Aina continues to inspire and reshape the beauty landscape for the better.
- Jackie Aina
1. Ryan’s World
Ryan’s World, created by Ryan Kaji, is a globally renowned children’s entertainment brand that has taken the digital world by storm. Ryan became a sensation through his YouTube channel where he unboxed and reviewed toys, captivating young audiences with his infectious enthusiasm. With his parents’ guidance, Ryan’s World evolved into a multi-platform empire, encompassing toys, clothing, books, and more. Through his creativity and genuine connection with his audience, Ryan has become a beloved figure in children’s media, providing both entertainment and learning experiences for young minds around the world.
Ryan’s World owns over 110 trademarks, including:
- Ryan’s World
- Kaji Family
- Ryan’s Lab
- Super Spy Ryan
- Race with Ryan
- Ryan’s Rescue Squad
- Ryan Toys Review
- Tag with Ryan
2. Holderness Family
The Holderness Family, comprised of husband Penn, wife Kim, and their children, is a popular family known for their humorous and heartwarming content. Penn and Kim, both former journalists, pivoted to creating entertaining videos on YouTube, showcasing their unique blend of comedy, music, and everyday family experiences. The Holderness Family continues to share their journey, parenting anecdotes, and catchy parodies, all while fostering a sense of togetherness among their dedicated audience. With their authenticity and creativity, they have solidified their status as a beloved internet family.
3. Like Nastya
Like Nastya is a Russian-American child YouTube star and influencer. Known for her captivating videos that blend entertainment and education, Like Nastya has captured the hearts of young audiences worldwide. Her videos often feature imaginative play, educational adventures, and relatable family scenarios, all delivered with her charming personality. With her rapid rise to fame, she has become one of the most recognizable child influencers on social media, consistently inspiring creativity and curiosity in her devoted fanbase.
- Like Nastya
Trademark filing strategies for influencers
While sales of products and services are a requirement for trademark registration, it is not a requirement for filing a trademark application. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) provides a filing option known as “intent-to-use,” where applicants can state they intend to use the trademark in connection with the associated goods or services.
By filing an intent-to-use application, influencers can figuratively get in line with the USPTO before releasing or even finalizing their branding plans.
There are numerous benefits to filing this way, in addition to “getting in line” at the USPTO. Firstly, the rights in the name date back to the filing date of the application as opposed to the date the brand launches. This will give influencers priority rights in the name while giving them up to three years to formally launch their companies.
Additionally, an intent-to-use trademark application can act as a preliminary USPTO review to check for conflicts. If there are other brands that are already protected by a trademark that is too similar, applicants can reevaluate their branding plan and any other business plans they may have intended to launch in the future.
How a trademark attorney can help influencers
Trademark applicants are not required to have an attorney to file for a trademark with the USPTO (unless they are not domiciled in the U.S.). However, the application process is complex, and many initial applications are denied.
A trademark attorney can help influencers narrow the focus and prioritize the protection of the most important aspects of their brands. Experienced counsel can also advise influencers on the strategic benefits and proof of use requirements needed to file with the intent to use strategy, ultimately saving time and money.
Contact Gerben IP to discuss your trademark registration and brand protection needs.