“Real World” MTV reality star Johnny Devenanzio has allegedly threatened to sue producers of the popular HBO show “Entourage,” claiming that they stole his nickname “Johnny Bananas” without his permission. Devenanzio claims that he has diligently developed the nickname over the course of five years on television through his “jerk-off” antics on various MTV reality shows.
Under U.S. trademark law, personal names are often considered “merely descriptive” and, thus, are generally not protectable trademarks absent a showing of acquired distinctiveness. Acquired distinctiveness (also known as “secondary meaning”) is evidence that the proposed mark, which in this case is “Johnny Bananas”, has become distinctive as applied to the specified goods or services through exclusive and continuous use in commerce for at least five years.
In this instance, does Devenanzio have a valid claim of acquired distinctiveness in his nickname “Johnny Bananas” in connection with, perhaps, entertainment and/or television-related goods and services based on his alleged five-years use in commerce?