WAG*THA CHR*STIE: HOW TO MAKE MONEY FROM A TRADE MARK
Note: Throughout this article, you will note that the full phrase trade marked by Vardy is not used. This is due to the trade mark being registered in classes relating to publication and online media. If nothing else, this proves just how powerful a trade mark can be.
In 2019, Coleen Rooney accused Rebekah Vardy of leaking posts from her private Instagram account to The Sun newspaper. The following year, Vardy sued Rooney for libel and the case went to trial in mid-2022. The case quickly came to be known as the ‘Wag*tha Chr*stie’ trial.
The term ‘Wag*tha Chr*stie’ was coined by comedian, Dan Atkinson, on Twitter at the time of the trial. It was intended as a joke, being a portmanteau of the words ‘WAG’ (wives and girlfriends [of professional footballers]) and Agatha Christie, due to the investigation by Rooney to identify the source of the leaks.
The Court ultimately dismissed Vardy’s claim on the basis that Rooney’s statements were found to be substantially true. This was not the end of the story though…
Some twelve months on, Vardy has potentially turned a throwaway tweet into a commercially viable product; trade marking the phrase ‘Wag*tha Chr*stie’ in a whole variety of trade mark classes.
What is a trade mark?
A trade mark is a type of registered intellectual property. You can register a trade mark to protect your brand (for example, the name of your product or service).
In order to register a trade mark, the words or design you are registering must:
- be a sign capable of being represented graphically;
- distinguish the goods and services to which the mark relates (i.e. be distinctive and not generic); and
- not simply be description of those products or services.
When registering a trade mark, you can either apply to register the words themselves or the figurative style, layout, graphic feature or colour you have used (for example, in your logo).
Registering a figurative mark is often easier to achieve as it is less restrictive in the market (i.e. others will still be able to use the words, just not in the same style or design). If you want total control over the use of words though, a figurative mark is unlikely to be enough. You would need to apply to register the words themselves; though, this can be tougher to achieve.
In Vardy’s case, it appears that it is the words ‘Wag*tha Chr*stie’ which have been registered as a trade mark. As such, she has total control over their use in the classes she has registered them in.
How can I make money from a trade mark?
Registering a trade mark enables you to:
- take legal action against anyone who uses your brand without your permission;
- put the ® symbol next to those words or logo, to show that they belong to you (warning others against using them); and
- importantly, sell and license your brand to the exclusion of all others.
By excluding all others from using the words, or design of them, you are able to carve out a brand in the market. With proper marketing and strategic brand placement, your logo/brand will become known in its industry, providing goodwill and consumer trust in the marketplace.
Intellectual Property Offices worldwide use a trade mark classification system, referred to as the Nice classification. The system groups together similar goods or services into 45 different classes. Choosing the right classes, and providing a detailed list of the products and/or services you want to protect against in those classes, can be the difference between a good trade mark and one that leaves you exposed.
Vardy provides an excellent example here, registering ‘Wag*tha Chr*stie’ in a whole range of trade mark classes, from cosmetics and cleaning products to stationery and publishing. In doing so, Vardy has excluded anyone else from making financial gain from the phrase in those classes. This allows her to protect the brand and to only allow its use by her, or anyone she licenses it to, in the manner she chooses.
What can we expect next in the ‘Wag*tha Chr*stie’ saga then?
“With such a wide-reaching trade mark, it is hard to guess where Vardy will go with this. Perfume, clothing and homeware are likely to be high on the list, given Vardy’s likely target audience. Of course, the more ‘out there’ the products are though, the more likely they are to garner media attention. I would personally love to see the branded household Shinto altar (registered under Class 20) or drinking horn (Class 21). I’m not sure how commercially successful they would be though!”
On a more serious note, registering a trade mark is a vital step in selling products with a distinctive logo or strapline. Licensing intellectual property can also be an easy way to make money from a brand, allowing others to use it in return for royalties.
At Jolliffes, we not only help you to register and protect your intellectual property but we help you to realise its commercial potential.
If you would like to speak to an expert lawyer on how to register, protect or defend your intellectual property, speak to us today on 01244 310022 or by email to email@example.com