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Can I legally register my own surname as a trademark?

Supposing my name is Jeck Galifianakis, can I sue by law all the business entities (or maybe individuals too) that hold name Galifianakis in its name or merchandise but don't posses trademark for this name?

Will I have right to sue them if their name is Galifianakis LTD or Galifianakis GMBH or maybe Galifianakis Family LLC and I hold only trademark for Galifianakis word?

What about websites and domains? Will I have priority right when resolving disputes with cybersquatters for domain galifianakis.com or galifianakis-is-shit.com?

UPDATE: I was suggested that I can register trademark only for certain business activity code. OK, I conduct consulting services in EEA area, is it enough to register trademark in US or worldwide? What about geographical coverage for my trademark? How to make it worldwide?

Answers for all jurisdictions you are competent with are welcome (US, UK, EU, etc).

P.S. I saw this question but I want quite an opposite thing. I want to prevent businesses from using my name first served, until they don't realized they have no trademark for it ;)

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  • Do you mean that you want to lock in a trademark name in your area of business before you start the business?
    – xuhdev
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 9:30
  • Exactly. How starting a business is qualified in legal terms? Registering business entity for these codes is sufficient for claiming that I started a business or I should really sell something and/or show some financial results?
    – Suncatcher
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 18:20
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    In general I don't think one can so easily "reserve" or "lock in" a trademark before starting using it, but you can consult an attorney about how difficult it might be in your specific situation. There is an article about this, especially the "common mistakes" section: upcounsel.com/intent-to-use-trademark
    – xuhdev
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 19:46

5 Answers 5

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You can register your last name only if it is synonymous with a specific product or service in a way that consumers would recognize the name as being closely associated with that product. https://secureyourtrademark.com/can-you-trademark/last-name/

However, you can't stop someone from using their own name, just as a matter of speech. If the second person with the same last name would infringe on your right to do business, the name of the second company may have to be modified, but the last name can still be used. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/using-surname-family-name-trademark.html

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  • I believe that answers my question, thanks. However I still don't loose the hope: Extremely rare or obscure surnames—such as the surname “Baik”—do not necessarily require proof of secondary meaning. I believe no more than 300 persons in the world possess my last name, and no more than 10 in US.
    – Suncatcher
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 18:44
  • Yeah if you are well enough known with a product or service you can use it. I just meant you can't refuse to let any of those other people use it till the end of time lol.
    – Putvi
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 18:45
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Trademarks are registered for the marketing of particular categories of products by product class codes. If you get a U.S. trademark for Galifianakis brand ice cream that will not affect all of the other Galifianakis's you have mentioned unless they start selling ice cream. If they are already selling ice cream under the Galifianakis name, you may not get your trademark. In the U.S. there are both state trademarks and federal trademarks so it is complicated.

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  • Is there any legal way for registering it for all codes?
    – Suncatcher
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 4:00
  • Yes - sell everything
    – Dale M
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 4:02
  • If they are already selling ice cream under the Galifianakis name, you may not get your trademark now we make assumption nobody has this trademark yet and I will be the first. I want to do this in a highest possible prohibitive manner for all others
    – Suncatcher
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 4:02
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    You register it for product categories you are actually selling. Or you sell a few things for a long time with great success and then you might get a broader coverage as a "famous name". Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 16:44
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    @Suncatcher "nobody has this trademark yet and I will be the first": if they've been selling Galifianakis ice cream without having registered the trademark, you may still be unable to register the trademark. A degree of trademark protection accrues simply through use, and a subsequent party cannot deprive an earlier user of that protection simply by registering the mark.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 8:40
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There are a number of misconceptions about registering popular and personal names as trademarks. It is clear that we are surrounded by names, and that they are well safeguarded. The key to protecting such a mark is acquired distinctiveness, which, although not granting exclusive rights, makes it more difficult for others to register the mark. As a result, a distinctive surname can give a company its identity, or you can create one.

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  • acquired distinctiveness how to assess it? where is the point of time after which I can be sure I acquired the distinctiveness of my name?
    – Suncatcher
    Commented May 2, 2022 at 5:41
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Sure, what goods or services do you sell?

You can't just "register a trademark", you have to register a trademark in relation to the business of selling goods or services. For example, Omo is a trademark about washing powder, Intel's 'ting' is a trademark about microprocessors, Ernst and Young's logo is a trademark about business consulting services, the NFL's logo is a trademark about American football.

So, if you are selling something using your surname to identify that thing then you can register it as a trademark for that thing. If someone else uses your name to sell the same thing in an area where you have a trademark or uses your name in a way that could otherwise cause confusion between your goods and services and theirs, then you can sue them.

Further a trademark has to be more than just a word - it has to be a word in a particular style or as part of a distinctive logo.

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  • I conduct consulting services as a private entrepreneur, is it enough?
    – Suncatcher
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 3:58
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    To both of you secureyourtrademark.com/can-you-trademark/last-name
    – Putvi
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 18:20
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    "a trademark has to be more than just a word": this is incorrect. Many trademarks are nothing more than a word. (And think about why this is so: consider a system that allows someone other than Apple Computer to sell "Apple computers" simply because they have a different typeface or a different distinctive logo. Would such a system be reasonable? No.)
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 8:47
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See KATIE PERRY vs. KATY PERRY or NISSAN.COM

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