When a mark in a trademark application includes a name, portrait or signature of a living individual, that person’s consent must generally be sought before the Trademark Office will register the application. This is to prevent the registration – and thus the binding up – of someone’s own name. Trademark law recognizes that we should all be free to use our own names.
Consent is provided by having the person with the name signing a document stating that they give consent to use their name. Not all applications that contain a name require consent, however. If the name plainly appears fictitious (such as SpongeBob SquarePants), the Trademark Office should recognize that the name is not a real one.
If the applicant is applying for a mark in his or her own exact name, consent is presumed and need not explicitly be made of record. Further, if the mark comprises a portion of the applicant’s name (like if I, Tom Galvani, tried to register Galvani Legal), then consent is also presumed to be granted. Consent also does not have to be sought if the name is that of someone who is deceased (though this is not the case for US Presidents), but a statement must be made that the name does not identify a living individual.