6 Common Ideas You Had No Idea Celebrities Actually Owned
For most of their lives, celebrities are taught they can own things normal people can't -- jets, exotic pets, dinosaur skulls, etc. They're used to getting their way, but sometimes they take that mentality too far. Some celebs think that because they once said, wrote, or even just thought of a word, they have the right to own it. That and fleets of fancy lawyers have made it so that celebrities are slowly starting to buy up the dictionary like it's a bunch of newly discovered islands. Here are some of the most egregious examples.
Donald Trump Owns Central Park's Name -- And He Doesn't Know How To Profit From It
Donald Trump is, if nothing else, a ridiculous idiot. His wealth-to-business-acumen ratio puts him in the same category as Powerball winners and people who get run over by the crown prince of Dubai. He even had to file bankruptcy on a casino, despite the fact that losing money running a casino is almost statistically impossible to do. But all that said, he did once make a rather safe and foolproof investment. He simply hasn't figured out what to do with it yet.
Donald Trump owns "Central Park" -- that is, the actual name of New York City's famous green rectangle. In 1991, Trump personally was able to file for the trademark without any fuss at all, and New York City and the Central Park Conservancy let it happen without a peep. Maybe they didn't notice, or maybe they didn't think a sentient bucket of thick swill would ever be clever enough to make any money from it anyway.
They would have been mostly right, too. From what he's done with the name so far, you'd think the U.S. president has never set foot in a park, not even the one he used to live right across from. He's been focusing his licensing rights on picking up scraps from things like keychain sales and tacky glassware, and he's considered making Central Park gun racks. It leaves us to wonder who on Earth associates guns, cars, and hot sand with a park. But his most expansive Central Park project has to be the dumbest of all: an unsuccessful furniture line named Trump Home Central Park. Because nothing says "luxury furniture" quite like a name associated with homeless people sleeping on pigeon-poop-covered benches.
And that's about it. Trump seems to be waiting on other people to make Central Park merchandising so he can leech off them like some swamp-dwelling bloodsucker. So for now, he's sitting on his only good idea the way people aren't sitting on his terrible furniture, now available at discount prices up to 90 percent. Great business, you businessman, you.
Bill Gates Owns The Rights To Hundreds Of Dead Celebrities
Bill Gates is the world's richest man. He can buy pretty much anything he wants, and he's blown a little bit of discretionary income here and there and allotted the overwhelming majority of it to charity. He's almost the exact opposite of what people expect from the disgustingly rich. But there is one eccentric billionaire-esque investment he's made: owning the images of Albert Einstein and a whole host of other dead people.
Roger Richmond is a Hollywood agent, but instead of representing living movie stars, he runs a talent agency for the dead ones. It's something only he and whoever reps Larry King have in common. Richmond's entire job is waiting for families of deceased stars to contact him so that he can be their agent, which has led him to work for half the people who were around in the Golden Age of Hollywood, as well as such famous now-rotted faces like Sigmund Freud and the Wright Brothers. So if some Mad Men-style marketing genius wants to use a still of Steve McQueen fighting Freud balancing on the wings on the first-ever biplane in an ad campaign, they've gotta go through Richmond.
And Richmond, in turn, has to go through Bill Gates. See, Gates' company Corbis bought out Richmond's agency back in 2005, gaining final say on all marketing opportunities. Corbis itself is Gates' image bank division, and owns copyrights to dozens of iconic celebrity pictures. That means that Gates now not only decides who gets to buy these images, but then also what they are allowed to use them for. And ever since the acquisition, they've been remarkably guarded about the use of Einstein's image. Anything that utilizes the "Einstein brand" has to ensure that Gates approves and gets a cut. And if owning the company that owns Einstein's image isn't the sweetest revenge for Steve Jobs using him in those "Think Different" ads for so long, we don't know what is.
Basketball Coach Pat Riley Trademarked The Phrase "Three-Peat" (And "3Peat," And "ThreePeat")
The '80s and '90s were an exciting time for basketball fans. With players like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, teams were constantly playing hard and fast, shredding records all over the place. And during all this excitement, one legendary coach looked at his many achievements and thought: "How can I make even more money from all this?"
In 1989, when Pat Riley was coaching the LA Lakers, he had Magic and Kareem on his roster, which must have felt like playing with god mode enabled. Understandably, he had a good feeling that they might be able to win three NBA titles in a row. Combining his apparent loves of winning and portmanteaus, Riley filed to be the owner of the word "three-peat," and eventually just about every variation on it he could come up with.
Alas, the Lakers didn't make it that far, but Riley still pulled off a coup with that trademark. As hard as it was for literally anybody to beat Michael Jordan in the '90s, Riley was possibly the biggest winner of all. The '90s were full of
threepeats three-in-a-row championship streaks. Jordan's Bulls did it twice, and the New York Yankees did it as well. Then the Lakers pulled off their own threepeat streak. So any time the NBA and merchandising companies saw another chance to hock a T-shirt, or a hat, or a bumper sticker with that phrase on it, 5 percent of that goober money went straight into Riley's wallet. He even coined the term "four-ward," because he wouldn't want to see sporting history being made without getting to siphon off as much cash as he could, like some kind of money-tick.
Of course, Riley insists that all of the patents' profits go straight to charity. Strangely, when people ask him which charities, he refuses to answer. He also starts to sweat profusely, screams out "Is that Jordan doing a reverse dunk behind you?" and runs to his golden limousine.
Mark Cuban Basically Owns The Concept Of Civic Pride
Mark Cuban is a guy whose face you probably know from that show about the millionaires judging business proposals or those Facebook videos your crazy libertarian uncle keeps posting. Cuban is known for his savvy business acumen, and perhaps his greatest stroke of capitalist genius was betting on how boring and unoriginal sports fans can be.
Cuban owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, but by far his most profitable sports asset has to be his trademark of the phrase "City of Champions." Unsurprisingly, just about every place in America (outside of Muncie, Indiana) likes to think they're the "city of champions." So whenever a city wants to take pride in itself, such as when it wins at sports, it has to pay Cuban for the privilege.
In fact, calling yourself this utterly generic phrase becomes almost mandatory when a city wins several sporting championships in the same year. Boston's sports teams have been on a winning streak for a decade now, so you might as well consider the city's treasury to be Cuban's own retirement fund. And in 2009, when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins won the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup a few months apart, Cuban could not have been happier. Not only is he from Pittsburgh, but he also got to add another foot of gold coins to his Scrooge McDuck swimming vault.
A Bunch Of Celebrities Are Copyrighting Phrases They Used Once
Celebrities are by definition creators, even if all they create is people being interested in the curve of their butts. It's totally normal for a celebrity to want to take control of their own identity. So if JAY-Z or Beyonce want to trademark their kids' names so no one can take advantage of their toddler fame, who could blame them. But there are a bunch of celebrities who think that because they uttered a phrase once, they get to copyright the English language four words at a time.
Precisely one song in the Taylor Swift repertoire uses the phrase "this sick beat." It is sung exactly once, yet she felt the need to slap a trademark on it regardless. Ditto with "Nice to meet you, where you been?" and "could show you incredible things" (each used one time in one song). It's only a matter of time before Swift releases an album of her reciting a English tourist phrasebook for business purposes (yet she'll somehow still manage to reference all the times she stared into the beautiful, yet deceiving eyes of John Mayer).
But at least we can hold our heads high knowing we lost a quarter of the dictionary to none other than queen bee Taylor Swift. Meanwhile, even Z-listers are trying to trademark what they think are their original catchphrases. Like Rachel Zoe, a celebrity stylist who thinks she deserves to own "bananas" and "I die." We wonder how many cease and desist letters she's going to be sending to Chiquita and high schools putting on performances of Shakespeare.
It's gotten so bad that celebs are getting into legal battles with each other about the random words they think they should own. When Drake popularized the term YOLO, a crime against humanity even our grandchildren will still feel the effects of, he had to go to war over the right to be the guy who owns YOLO. Turns out he's nowhere near the first person to try to get in on it, as YOLO had already previously been used by other Canadian rappers and slapped on everything from yogurt to adventure travel packages. Even some random online furniture retailer tried to diversify his portfolio with this completely made-up word.
Oh well, people have to make money somehow. YOLO.
Gene Simmons Owns The Bag With The Dollar Sign On It
Have you ever robbed a bank, only to be wildly disappointed by the lack of bags with dollar signs on them? If you want that changed, you'll have to have a word with Gene Simmons, who moved on from his primary career as a glam metal party clown to put the C in "corporate sellout."
Simmons, the voluptuously tongued front-ghost of KISS, decided one day that he was so rich and famous that he should have dibs on the dollar sign. But he swiftly found out he'd have a rough time getting to use the dollar sign in just any old way -- there are surprisingly strict restrictions on how it can be used. Even so, Simmons was determined to find a way to use that goshdarn $, like some weird Terminator sent back in time solely to bankrupt Ke$ha. So now he owns the closest thing to a dollar sign through trademarking moneybags. Specifically, a single clip art drawing of a bag with a dollar sign on it.
By putting a floppy-looking bag around the dollar sign, he'd made a totally new thing nobody owned, and so Simmons put together a paper trail and became the owner of this random symbol out of an old-timey cartoon. He's got the rights to use it on "apparel, specifically jackets and T-shirts," and anyone who doesn't pay royalties on that could be in serious trouble. There must be dozens of biker gangs and up-and-coming supervillains who have been thwarted by Gene Simmons' experiences with patent attorneys.
When confronted by his very non-rock'n'roll greed, Simmons is absolutely unrepentant. "People said, 'You can't do that.'.... I can do anything I want to do," claims the rock star. "Anyone who thinks that's silly -- the silliest thing I've ever done is wear more makeup and higher heels than your mommy."
But his Mr. Monopoly-like streak of owning words and symbols isn't ending any time soon. Recently, Simmons tried to become the guy who owns the "Rock on!" horns hand sign. He eventually backed off after receiving a heaping pile of criticism from rockers everywhere. He also claims that he owns the trademark to the term "motion picture," which surely must be why no one has dared to make a movie about his life without his say so. Yup, that has to be the reason.
Isaac is on Twitter, and will happily sell jokes to you.
You too can own Einstein ... or at least this Einstein plushie!
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