I definitely glazed over the news that Mariah Carey was attempting to trademark herself as the “Queen of Christmas.” It’s a bit silly and ridiculous, but seemed so right. All you have to do is see the words “Mariah Carey” and “Christmas” in the same vicinity of each other and that song starts playing in your head. All you have to do is see Mariah wearing a certain shade of red or green and the song starts playing in your head. Etc, etc. Anyway, there are two other singers — Darlene Love and Elizabeth Chan — who do not agree with Mariah’s attempt to crown herself and Elizabeth has even gone to court to challenge her.
No one has to wait till December for a holiday squabble. Mariah Carey’s attempt to register the term “Queen of Christmas” as a trademark only she can use is meeting fierce resistance from two singers who have also been associated with that term over the years, Darlene Love and Elizabeth Chan. And the latter caroler has gone to court this week to try to stop Carey from monopolizing it.
Love’s music has been a holiday staple ever since she sang several songs on what many people consider the greatest Christmas pop album of all time, the collection best known as “Phil Spector’s Christmas Album,” back in 1963. Chan has built up a following and strong media profile as the only singer-songwriter who devotes herself to releasing exclusively Christmas music every year; she even released an album called “Queen of Christmas.” And neither of them is having Carey’s attempt to claim the honorific — and myriad attendant merch rights — exclusively for herself.
Chan’s attorney filed a formal declaration of opposition to Carey’s trademark claim Friday. Love caught wind of Chan’s possibly impending court battle with Carey, and spoke out Monday with her own outrage over the pop superstar looking to legally own the term.
“Is it true that Mariah Carey trademarked ‘Queen of Christmas’?” wrote Love. “What does that mean, that I can’t use that title? David Letterman officially declared me the Queen of Christmas 29 years ago, a year before she released ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You,’ and 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!!”
(Love’s association with Christmas music actually stretches to almost six decades, and snowballed as Letterman had her on his program to sing the classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” every year from 1986 through 2014, a tradition that has subsequently been carried on on other TV programs.)
Chan and her lawyer — Louis W. Tompros, of Boston-based WilmerHale — spoke with Variety over the weekend and shared the argument they are making to the trademark trial and appeal board to stop Carey in her snow tracks.
“Christmas has come way before any of us on earth, and hopefully will be around way after any of us on earth, says Chan. “And I feel very strongly that no one person should hold onto anything around Christmas or monopolize it in the way that Mariah seeks to in perpetuity. That’s just not the right thing to do. Christmas is for everyone. It’s meant to be shared; it’s not meant to be owned.
“And it’s not just about the music business,” Chan continues. “She’s trying to trademark this in every imaginable way — clothing, liquor products, masks, dog collars — it’s all over the map. If you knit a ‘queen of Christmas’ sweater, you should be able to sell it on Etsy to somebody else so they can buy it for their grandma. It’s crazy — it would have that breadth of registration.”
Carey’s representative did not return a request for comment last week about Chan’s legal filing.
Before I read the details, I would have said that Mariah is definitely the Queen of Christmas. But I don’t know, points were made. Darlene was doing Christmas songs before Mariah was even born and was called “Queen of Christmas” by David Letterman before Mariah even released that ubiquitous song. And Elizabeth Chan only does Christmas music and already released an album with the name “Queen of Christmas.” She really loves Christmas. And she makes really good points about how much the trademark would cover and potentially restrict others from creating Christmas-products. And yes, I guess “Christmas is for everyone” and people get really worked up about Christmas, but IMO that’s not even the most compelling point here! I’m no lawyer, but it seems like Elizabeth has a pretty good case. And I wonder if Darlene will join her? This sort of brings to mind Taylor Swift’s constant trademarking of lyrics from her songs so they can’t be reprinted on a Forever 21 shirt, but Christmas is way bigger and people have much stronger feelings about it than they do about the lyrics from “Shake it Off.”