Melania’s trademark claim

Many news outlets have reported on Melania Trump enforcing her rights in her name in her home country of Slovenia (Hollywood Reporter). Of course, someone cannot sell a product using the name, image, or likeness of another person, unless that person has authorized it. In the US, this right is typically controlled by state law, and is typically known as one’s right to publicity.

What’s interesting to me about this article, and the others I’ve seen, is that it first cites “judicial practice” (whatever that means)  in Slovenia, which states that “the use of the name, surname and photo of someone for commercial purposes without approval is not allowed.” This is simple enough, and similar to laws in the US. But then directly following that, the article goes on to state that the law firm representing Melania sent a press release “warning of a possible violation of the Melania Trump registered trademark.” A registered trademark is a wholly different right than Melania’s right to publicity. Also, I don’t know about Slovenian law, but in the US, trademarks have to be associated with some commercial activity — you can’t simply own a word or image and keep others from using it — you have to use it and it has to be associated with specific goods or services. So I wonder, is Melanie planning to (or already) selling products or providing services that are identified by her name? And that cover the goods and services that the other businesses, which she has demanded stop using her registered mark, sell? Some of those things were noted to be honey jars, an underwear line, and a salad. 

While I understand the right to publicity, and Melania’s right to control her image and name, the trademark issue is rather curious. Maybe someone will tell me that yes, in fact, she does have trademarks that cover honey jars, underwear, and salad — (I admit, I don’t know what her registrations cover) — I find this unlikely though. (I found US registered marks for MELANIA TRUMP and MELANIA for jewelry and cosmetic products. I assume her marks in Slovenia cover similar things.) The article does quote Melania’s counsel as stating that they cannot allow “some products” to use her name — this may be their acknowledging that her trademark rights only go so far. 

Disclaimer: I know nothing of Slovenia’s trademark law, or any of their laws for that matter; however, I know US law, and trademark law tends to be similar in other countries. My observations are based off of what I know about US law.