Mariah Carey is in a legal showdown over her efforts to secure a trademark registration for name “Queen of Christmas,” sparked by another singer who says she’s used the name for years.
Likely playing on her perennial smash hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Carey’s company (Lotion LLC) applied last year at the federal trademark office to register the “Queen” name as an exclusive brand name for a variety of different goods and services, ranging from music to alcohol to fragrances.
But in a legal opposition filing last week, singer Elizabeth Chan and her attorneys at the law firm Wilmer Hale asked the office to reject Carey’s application. They say Chan (“pop music’s only full-time Christmas singer”) has been repeatedly dubbed the “Queen of Christmas,” and that it would be unfair to let Carey monopolize the title.
“Christmas is big enough for more than one ‘Queen,’” wrote Chan’s attorney Louis Tompros. “But this opposition proceeding is sadly necessary because Ms. Carey’s Lotion LLC company is nevertheless trying to claim sole ownership of the title and designation ‘Queen of Christmas’.”
Citing an interview Carey gave last year, Chan’s legal filing argued that Carey had “candidly admitted” that she did not create the title and that she “does not even consider herself the Queen of Christmas.” The opposition filing also said that multiple artists had been dubbed with the nickname, including not just herself and Carey but also Brenda Lee and Darlene Love.
On Monday, Love weighed in on the situation on Facebook, noting that David Letterman had “officially declared me the Queen of Christmas 29 years ago” – a year before Carey released “All I Want For Christmas Is You” in 1994.
“Is it true that Mariah Carey trademarked ‘Queen of Christmas?’ What does that mean that I can’t use that title?” Love asked in the post. “At 81 years of age I’m NOT changing anything. I’ve been in the business for 52 years, have earned it and can still hit those notes! If Mariah has a problem call David or my lawyer!!”
Trademarks are different than copyrights, and they do not give someone blanket ownership over particular words. If Carey wins the registrations and wanted to sue someone like Chan, she would still need to prove that consumers had confused the two – not always an easy task, particularly with a fairly unoriginal name like “Queen of Christmas.” But they would empower Carey’s company to start threatening litigation and crowding out others from using it in similar commercial contexts, including Chan.
It’s unclear exactly what motivated Carey and her lawyers (from the elite trademark law firm Fross Zelnick) to file the applications, particularly after she gave an interview in December in which she seemed to disclaim the title: “To me, Mary is the Queen of Christmas.” Her attorney and her reps did not immediately return a request for comment on the effort to secure the trademarks or Chan’s case against them.
The case was filed at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a court-like body within the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that decides disputes over who is entitled to register particular trademarks. If Chan wins her case, it doesn’t mean Carey must stop using the name herself – only that she cannot stop others from using it too.
“Ms. Carey can call herself whatever she wants, but she shouldn’t have the ability to block others from doing the same,” said Chan’s attorney Tompros, a veteran trademark litigator. “If Mariah Carey were successful, her company might sue someone for knitting and selling a ‘Queen of Christmas’ sweater on Etsy, or ask a radio station to cease and desist from labeling anyone other than Mariah the ‘Queen of Christmas.’ We are representing Elizabeth for free in this case, because of the importance of preventing this kind of trademark abuse.”
Read Chan’s entire legal filing here: