The latest “Ask a Lawyer” column in the Bangor Daily news is about if and when you can copyright or trademark your own name.
Copyright and trademark law protect names in commercial uses. Copyright law protects “creative works,” including literary, music and visual works. Your given name — even one you give yourself — is not going to be considered a creative work that can be copyrighted. Names in a book, such as “Harry Potter” are protected by copyright as part of the literary work in which it is used.
Trademark law protects a name if it is associated with a product or service. An example of this is “Ralph Lauren,” which is a real person’s name, but also the name of the company that produces clothing. So the use of the name Ralph Lauren is protected by trademark law, because it represents the clothing and goods made by the Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.
If you are concerned about the unauthorized use of your name, Maine law prohibits the unauthorized use of your name or image for commercial purposes. The unauthorized appropriation of your name or likeness is considered a violation of your right to privacy. This comes up in advertisements, with lawsuits that typically involve famous people or celebrities.