Mariah Carey may be the “Queen of Christmas” but a new legal ruling means she won’t be able to stop others from using the same name.
In a ruling issued Tuesday, a court at the US Patent and Trademark Office rejected Carey’s application to register the royal title as a federal trademark. The decision went in favor of Elizabeth Chananother singer who says she’s been using the same name for years.
Chan filed a lawsuit against Carey in August, arguing that “Christmas is big enough for more than one queen.” After that, Carey never responded to the suit or defended his applications for the trademarks, prompting the trademark office to rule in favor of Chan by default.
“We are pleased with the victory and pleased that we were able to help Elizabeth fight back against Carey’s overwhelming trademark filings,” said Tompros, an attorney at the law firm WilmerHale.
In the same statement, Chan herself added: “Christmas is a season of giving, not a season of taking, and it is wrong for an individual to try to own and monopolize a nickname like the Queen of Christmas for the purpose of abject materialism.”
Carey’s attorney did not return a request for comment on the ruling.
In a statement, Chan’s lawyer Louis Tompros called Carey’s efforts to secure legal protection for the “Queen” name “a classic case of trademark bullying” — a term used to criticize overly aggressive trademark protection by major brands.
Likely playing on her perennial smash hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Carey’s company (Lotion LLC) filed last year to register the name “Queen” as an exclusive trademark for a variety of goods and services, from music to alcohol to smell.
Trademarks are different from copyrights and do not confer any blanket ownership over particular words. If Carey had won the registrations and wanted to sue someone, she would still have had to prove that consumers had confused the two brand names—not always an easy task, especially with a rather unoriginal name like “Queen of Christmas.”
But such registrations are still important and would have empowered Carey’s company to begin threatening lawsuits and displacing others from using it in similar commercial contexts. That would potentially include Chan, who calls herself “pop music’s only full-time Christmas caroler” and says she has also been repeatedly dubbed “Queen of Christmas”.
The risk of such lawsuits prompted Chan to file his case in August with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a court-like body of the USPTO that decides disputes over who has the right to register certain trademarks. Represented by Tompros, she argued that no single singer or company should be able to lock down the title.
“Ms. Carey can call herself whatever she wants, but she should not have the ability to block others from doing the same,” Tompros said at the time.
It’s unclear exactly what motivated Carey and her lawyers (from elite trademark law firm Fross Zelnick) to file the filings, especially after she gave an interview in December in which she appeared to renounce the title: “To me, Mary is the queen of Christmas.”
The dispute over the “Queen” title led to some hilarious arguments among other Christmas “Queens”. Darlene Love jokingly urged Carey to “call my lawyer,” noting that David Letterman “officially declared me the Queen of Christmas 29 years ago.” And last week, Dolly Parton quickly conceded the title to Carey after an interviewer suggested Parton could be “the new queen of Christmas.”
“Now don’t say that! I’m not going to compete with Mariah,” Parton said in the interview with Better Homes and Gardens. “I love her. You think about Christmas, you think about Mariah.”
“Is it true that Mariah Carey trademarked the ‘Queen of Christmas?’ What does it mean I can’t use that title?” Love asked in the post, “At 81 years old, I would NOT change a thing. I’ve been in the business for 52 years, earned it and can still hit those tones! Call David or my lawyer if Mariah has a problem!! “