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Let's say I wanted to start a new business named "Natasha, Inc" whose core product was spy hardware and software. Or maybe one named "Howard, LLC" whose core purpose was inventing new technologies.

Both of these examples use the first names of comic book characters (Black Widow and Howard Stark) whose business purpose is related to the character's role in the comic book stories.

Neither company would ever publicize a relation between the name and the comic book character, or use any character art/stories in marketing or products, though fans (and certainly Marvel Comics/Disney) would likely draw the conclusion themselves.

Both first names above do already have multiple trademarks registered for their names, i.e., Howard and Natasha, for use in many various industries.

A real example is the company Stark Equipment who has registered the service mark for "Stark". The company name and use are obvious references to "Stark Industries" from Iron Man (first use was 1963). But maybe they are just waiting for the lawsuit.

This question is similar, but asks about a name that isn't a common name (the name was invented by the author of LOTR).

The USPTO states that "Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services." That is comforting, though I'm still concerned that there may be other legal risks of using a pop-culture character name in this manner.

Is there any legal precedent protecting or preventing the use of common first names that are also used in popular culture (when such use draws inspiration from the pop culture)?

  • I had no idea who "Natasha" is supposed to be. And for "Howard, LLC" inventing new technologies it was obvious to me that you meant Howard Hughes. – gnasher729 Feb 3 '16 at 19:48
  • But Natas(c)ha is a Heavy weapon, not Spy. – Nick T Feb 3 '16 at 22:59
  • @nickt I'm referring to marvel.com/universe/Black_Widow_(Natasha_Romanova) – David Murdoch Feb 3 '16 at 23:03
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    @DavidMurdoch yes, I read as far as your second paragraph. Just illustrating that I made a different connection between "Natasha" and "spy". – Nick T Feb 3 '16 at 23:11
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A trade mark is infringed where there is the reasonable possibility of confusion between the trade marked goods and services and the infringer's goods and services.

For a company named Glorfindel, there is. For one named Natasha, there isn't.

  • Is the difference that "Glorfindel" is a name in a fictional language that only a single author used, where as Natasha is a common name in a language spoken by millions? Or is there another difference that I failed to see that separates your two examples? – sharur Sep 16 '16 at 17:18

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