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Who owns “Chanel” online: The brand or the person named Chanel?

A judge has recently decided who has dibs on social media accounts: the brand Chanel or the person born with the name Chanel.

What’s in a name?

Brands often trademark their name, slogan, or logo to legally protect the name or image from use by other parties. But what happens when your legal, given name is also the name of a brand?

People named Chanel had better watch out – as the Paris-based high-end fashion design house of the same name has proven very protective over its trademarked name.

Chanel just won a substantial lawsuit

The design house just won a lawsuit against Chanel Jones, who was sued for intellectual property violation for using her own name for her Merrillville, Indiana salon.

According to Chanel’s lawyers, the law gives “no absolute right to exploit one’s given name commercially if such use is inconsistent with Chanel’s right.”

Comparing timelines

The brand may have also come after Chanel Bonin, a 20 year old resident of Vancouver, Canada, for using the Instagram handle @Chanel. Her site, which she started in 2011 and boasts 40,000 followers, was shut down last week.

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On the other hand, Chanel the fashion brand didn’t join Instagram until 2014, but does have over 9 million followers. The brand uses the handle @chanelofficial.

How did this go down?

Instagram allows users to report intellectual property violations, and will sometimes close or disable accounts for “posting content that violates someone else’s intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademark.”

It is highly probable that Chanel ratted out Bonin, causing Instagram to disable her account.

Two weeks later, Bonin’s account was reactivated. She said: “I’m back!! My account was completely disabled for 2 weeks, I don’t know what happened and I thought I lost everything, but I just got it all back and I’m so relieved.”

Two relevant images quietly removed

Notably missing from Bonin’s reactivated account were a picture she had posted of a Chanel brand hair barrette and a drawing of herself wearing a t-shirt with Chanel’s double C logo.

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These images may have been removed so that users would not get the two parties confused with one another.


Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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