Many people want to register a trademark for their own personal name (whether it’s their last name (surname), full name, or nickname) as a source identifier for their goods or services. While it is possible to register one of these personal names, the process can be more challenging than applying for a non-personal name. The rationale behind the difficulty is, people should be able to use their own names if they want. However, if you work hard and build brand awareness around your name, this hurdle can be overcome.
The application process is the same (link to full process here), with the exception of a few extra steps. First, there must be written consent from the person whose name you want to have a registered trademark for. Yes, if you want to register your own name, you must submit written consent. This consent is included with the application. The application is submitted for registration on the Principal Registry (the main registry as opposed to the Supplemental Registry detailed below). Once the examining attorney receives the application, he or she will more than likely immediately refuse the registration on the grounds of it being descriptive because it is a proper or personal name. If this occurs, the applicant must either move the application to the Supplemental Registry (the Registry where trademarks are sent until the acquire “distinctiveness”) or abandoned. One of the few ways to keep the application on the Principal Registry is if the applicant can show the trademark has been used in commerce for at least five years with its goods or services. This is a rebuttable presumption for acquiring “distinctiveness” and may require additional evidence that the marketplace identifies the name with your goods or services. Another way is submit a response claiming an "exemption" such as a rare surname or the surname is identified as a word with a separate meaning. In the event the trademark is placed on the Supplemental Registry, the same acquired distinctiveness rules apply. Once you can show the trademark has been used for five years in commerce, you can reapply (same process) to the Principal Registry. If refused again because the examining attorney feels it has not acquired distinctiveness in the five year period, you may be required to present more evidence. The bigger your brand (and name) becomes, the better chance of registration. So there you have it. A person’s name can be registered as a trademark, but it takes some time and maneuvering.