We have previously celebrated the new-ish advent of personal branding as it relates to celebrities big and small. Who are any of us to judge those who want to create a bigger identity for themselves, complete with signifiers? After all, celebrities are businesses unto themselves, and every business needs their own branding if they hope to grow and expand. We might not necessarily understand what these artists and entertainers have in mind with their choice in branding, but if we truly understood what goes into being a megastar, we'd probably be one ourselves, or at least close enough to one to bask in some reflected glory.
This brings us to the latest case of Celebrities and Trademarks, with this edition featuring rapper Cardi B and the exclusive catchphrase that wasn't. Ms B was denied a trademark for her catchphrase "okurrr" (or "okurr"; either spelling is apparently correct) by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. For those not in the know, "okurr" means "Ok", but differs in the spelling, clearly. If the phrase sounds entirely different, then you must not be paying attention to the right circles, as the USPTO denied the application on the grounds that the phrase is a "commonplace term" that is used by a number of different sources and that conveys a familiar sentiment.
Cardi B applied for the trademark this spring, with the intent to use the phrase on merchandise, but it would seem that those plans have to be put on hold. While the filing might serve more as a reminder of advancing age to many of us as it does anything else, it also demonstrates that the system can still work as intended, and that branding has to be both unique and original.
Given how many big corporate interests are pushing to gain the rights over common phrases or simple marks, one would hope that this unfortunate setback for Cardi B is a herald of something bigger and better, that the bureaucratic forces responsible for our intellectual property laws are able to hold up against the push of corporate power to preserve the basic tenants of what constitutes original and therefore legally defensible works. But that remains to be seen.