Famous CHANEL Trademark Trumps Right to Use Personal Name as Business Name


Pursuant to a consent judgment signed this week, a District Court in Indiana issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Indiana beauty salon owner Chanel Jones from using CHANEL in the name of her salon or otherwise to identify any businesses, services or products and to refrain from all use of CHANEL in the promotion of her business, including as any part of an Internet keyword or search term, meta tag, keyword or source code. The claims in this case included trademark infringement, dilution and unfair competition under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act as well as trademark infringement and unfair competition under Indiana state law. Chanel, Inc. made clear that their objection was not to Ms. Jones's use of her name to identify herself personally, just to the use of CHANEL for commercial purposes. Chanel Jones, who operates Chanel's Salon, LLC (a/k/a Chanel's Cosmetology Salon) in Merrillville, Indiana, has been quoted saying "I had no idea using my birth name for my business would put me in this position."

This case is a reminder of the well-settled fact that an individual does not have an unfettered right to use their personal name for commercial purposes. There are a number of cases on this issue over the years involving well-known trademarks such as MCDONALDS, CAESAR or TAYLOR, and this issue becomes a more interesting and prevalent one in this day and age of non-traditional baby naming (e.g., Blue Ivy, Apple, Mercedes), which sometimes may even be inspired by the secondary meaning in a famous trademark.

This case is Chanel, Inc. v. Chanel’s Salon LLC et al., case number 2:14cv00304 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.