Stephen Hawking is posed to leverage his physics fame into a brand name. The renowned theoretical physicist has filed an application seeking trademark protection of his name with the U.K. Intellectual Property Office. The trademark, if approved, will give Hawking greater control over how his name is used in connection with certain goods and services including charitable endeavors, scientific research, and medical devices.
Hawking, the director of research at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology and author of popular-science books including the 1988 bestseller A Brief History of Time, has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years following appearances on The Simpsons, Futurama, and The Big Bang Theory, as well as the release of the 2014 critically-acclaimed biographical film The Theory of Everything.
The University of Cambridge declined to comment on the rationale behind Hawking’s trademark application, stating: “It’s a personal matter for Stephen Hawking, it is not a university issue, but he has taken measures to protect his name and the success it has bought.” Toby McDonald and Jonathan Leake, “It’s the Big Brand Theory as Cox and Hawking Trademark Names,” The Sunday Times, Mar. 29, 2015. Some however, have suggested that Hawking’s decision was motivated by a desire to stop exploitation of his name through unauthorized or inappropriate products. See Thomas Burrows, “Big Brand Theory for Professors Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking who Trademark Own Names To Turn Themselves Into Brands,” Daily Mail, Mar. 29, 2015.