Harry Kane has trademarked the phrase "HK Harry Kane" with the government's intellectual property office, a move that could be worth up to £10m a year according to some estimates.
Firstly, it's important to note that Kane is not trademarking himself — that's not possible.
Instead he is trademarking his name in the form of a logo in relation to particular goods and services including “clothing”, “games and playthings” as well as “providing of training”. All of which can be exploited commercially.
The Spurs striker's logo application would have been scrutinised and examined by an officer at the UK Intellectual Property Office to ensure the mark met the requisite standards. The more distinctive the mark, the better your position at the time of filing your application.
What is interesting, however, is that Kane has filed for a logo mark thus the scope of protection of his brand will be constrained by such figurative elements. Typically, we would recommend people file work mark applications as these have the broadest scope of protection and can therefore be used in any form, including a logo.
Is it really neccessary? Won't brands already want to work with him?
A trademark is a cost-effective way to identify and distinguish your products and services from those of a competitor as it is a “badge of origin” and serves to identify a source. Without a registered trademark, celebrities like Harry Kane would need to rely on unregistered rights. Unregistered rights accrue over time and only once you meet certain thresholds, such as reputation, can you rely on these in the tort of passing off to pursue competitors who have misrepresented their products and/or services as yours and you have suffered harm as a result. As you can imagine, this is all rather onerous and can prove difficult (and expensive!) to prove a case for passing off. The answer? Apply for a trademark!
Now Harry Kane has a trademark he can potentially licence it to those who wish to use it or use it as a bargaining tool if some brands want to work with him and get his endorsement on certain products. For example, he could align his trademark with a huge brand such as Nike for football shirts, which displayed both the Nike swoosh and Harry Kane’s logo. In this example, Nike and HK working together when bringing products to market could enable customers to feel trust in the HK brand, which can be highly advantageous. Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Roger Federer all have similar relationships with Nike.
Post-retirement revenue streams
Harry Kane is by no means the first sportsperson to trademark their name. Mo Farah and Anthony Joshua have also done so in recent years. Even Liverpool Football Club are following suit. They recently applied to register — the mark is currently undergoing “examination” at the UKIPO — what appears to be a logo associated with Steven Gerrard.
Celebrity advisers would be encouraging this practice because the life of a sportsperson is by no means indefinite. Kane at 24 may only have another decade at the top of his game, so it would be wise for him to start preparing for life after playing football and securing alternative income streams — not every footballer ends up as a Sky pundit! — which he seems to be doing.
As mentioned before, one way to secure his future is by licensing his name, and developing a brand that he could live off the profitably for many years after retirement. David Beckham is perhaps the most recognised example of this.
Harry Kane has registered the trademark in clothing, footwear and headgear category as well as education and cultural activities. The England forward may decide to put his name to initiatives such as training centres and schools. Depending on his brand success, he may need to broaden his protection as time goes on. However, he would need to file a new application for those additional classes as it is not possible to just add additional categories to pre-existing applications/registrations.
What if another famous HK emerges?
Trademarks last indefinitely so long as they are used and the renewal fee paid - which falls due every 10 years. However, if a trademark is not used in all the classes applied for, the trademark may become vulnerable to a non-use attack. Despite this, Kane will be safe from any such challenge for five years. And in that time, you would hope to see him put his business into action and be using his registration in all the classes applied for.