What’s in a Name? The Identity of Market Participants in the Legal Rhetoric of the US and Germany

    • Cover Photo
    • Presentation speakers
      • Katya Assaf, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
      • Lisa Herzog, Technical University of Munich, Germany


    This paper focuses on the cultural perception of work in an individual’s life, and how it is captured in different legal systems. It contrasts two models, based on the works of Adam Smith and GWF Hegel: “human capital” and “vocation.” The paper inquires how these models are reflected in legal regulations and judicial rhetoric in the US and Germany. Specifically, it examines how the legal systems of these countries perceive the practice of using personal names ‘ the most direct referents to individuals’ identities ‘ in business. Three sets of cases are discussed: the use of personal names as trademarks, conflicts between parties with similar names, and the transfer of rights in personal names. The paper demonstrates that the US legal system treats work as a commercial asset, as “human capital” in Smith’s sense, whereas German law perceives work as an integral part of one’s identity, echoing the Hegelian line of “vocation.”