Keeping Up With the Kylies – A 21st century trademark feud

Who’s the first person you think of when you hear the name ‘Kylie’? Is it Kylie Minogue, the Australian popstar with an illustrious 36-year career full of hit singles, or Kylie Jenner, the 19-year-old American teenager who’s famous for being part of the Kardashian family?

You could argue that the answer is highly dependent on the generation of the person you ask — a 40 or 50-year-old parent would be much more likely to say Minogue over their Instagram-obsessed teenage kids, for example. But this didn’t stop Kylie Jenner from filing an application to trademark ‘Kylie’ at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a move which would strengthen the branding for her ‘Kylie’ range of beauty and make-up products.

Unsurprisingly, this didn’t go down so well with Kylie Minogue, who’s been commonly referred to as just Kylie for almost as long as she’s been in the public spotlight. Minogue has also used just her first name to promote and sell beauty products in the past, and so she made an aggressive move to try and block Jenner’s trademark. In her counter application to USPTO, lawyers for Minogue explained that the attempted trademark would “dilute her brand”, while also describing Jenner as “a secondary reality TV personality”.

This well-reported dispute between the two Kylies meant that the case was put on hold numerous times for negotiations and settlement discussions, but nothing seemed to materialise. But in January 2017, almost three years after the initial trademark filing, news broke that Minogue was withdrawing from the battle. Incorrectly, some publications reported that Minogue had ‘lost’ the trademark case and Jenner had ‘won’ it, when in fact no one had won or lost anything at this point — instead, it simply meant that Jenner could pursue the trademark with USPTO without any outside objections.

Jenner’s rosy outlook didn’t last long however, because it was only a few more days before the trademark application was rejected altogether. USPTO had finally made its decision, and it seemed to indicate that Jenner was not the most distinctive Kylie in the showbiz arena.

Again, there was some inaccurate reporting when this story broke. Many publications reported that Minogue had “defeated” Jenner in the dispute, but this simply isn’t the case. Because Minogue withdrew from the case days before, she was no longer involved in the case, and the USPTO decision was made without any outside influence. Minogue did not ‘win’ over Jenner, but Jenner did lose over USPTO.

An interesting aside is the way that this case has been treated in other countries. While the United States chose to rule one way or the other, CompuMark research reveals that in China both Kylie Minogue and Kylie Jenner managed to get the Kylie trademark registered, allowing the two individuals to market products on the Chinese market using exactly the same name. CompuMark’s trademark experts found that Minogue also own the Kylie mark in the UK, Germany, France, Australia, Malta, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the WIPO International Register.

Jenner’s lawyers were quick to launch an appeal almost straight after the case concluded, so while it might now seem like the end of a long, drawn-out affair, it might not be the last we hear of the battle of the Kylies.