Band Trademark Registration Concerns
If you are a musician and plan on creating your own album or expanding your business beyond the local bar scene you need to start thinking about a U.S. trademark registration. People associate your name with your music. Your band name is your brand name. Protect it.
A band name is a word that identifies and distinguishes the source of service (live performances) or goods (sound recordings) of one party from another. As a result, a band name is registrable subject matter with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
I Have Trademark Common Law Rights
You are only protected locally if you are the first to use that name locally. If your band name conflicts with another band’s U.S. trademark registration you are infringing on their mark and subject to statutory and actual damages. At the least, you should check to ensure you are not infringing by conducting a comprehensive search. It’s a minimal cost that can save you thousands. You do acquire common law rights to use the name if you are first to use it. This means that if you are the only one using the name, and not infringing a U.S. trademark registration, you have the right to use that name in the geographic area in which you conduct business. However, the same applies to all other bands as well. Securing your band trademark registration will protect your nationwide rights to the name.
- Common law is a good first step, but National trademark protection is the way to go.
Your Actual Name is Your Band Name
You are a unique individual. However, other musicians may have the same name. As a musician the best way to protect your name is through trademark registration. Zac Brown Band has seven registrations, including one for “hair clips”. Taylor Swift owns forty-three trademarks, including, a single trademark dedicated to “plastic key chains”. Can Taylor Swift prevent a guy named Taylor Swift in California from selling records under his own name? No. His use would be considered descriptive fair use. Although, you will want to secure the name through trademark registration in order to prevent others from unfairly profiting from your name. In short, a U.S. trademark registration gives you exclusive rights to use the name registered with the goods or services listed in the registration, and assists you in protecting your name against others who are trying to profit unfairly.
- Your name is a registrable trademark.
- Fair use can protect you in certain circumstances.
Protection Through Domain Name or ReverbNation Page
No substitute exists for a federally registered trademark. Some websites claim to protect your band’s name by listing you in a “band directory” or “band registry” and “establishing ‘prior use'”. As explained above, you can get the same prior use from a free Myspace or ReverbNation page. Put your money to better use by acquiring actual trademark registration. A ReverbNation page or Myspace page will not get you nationwide protection. It’s a good start to common law rights, however, you only acquire common law rights in the specific geographic area where you actually conduct business. In the same sense, a domain name is another step to acquire common law rights. However, you are limited to your audience and the geographic regions in which you use your mark. A U.S. trademark registration gives you the sole right to use the name nationwide.
- Owning a domain does not necessarily give you any trademark rights.
- ReverbNation is a good way to get your name out there, but is a bad way to protect your trademark.
I Have Better Use of my Money, Like Marketing
Don’t fill your car with gas when there’s a hole in the tank. Essentially, you are pouring money into something that you may lose. How much time and money would it cost to change your website? What about your domain name, your Facebook page, your Twitter page, ReverbNation page, pull your CD’s from distribution, update your digital music information, destroy your old merchandise, purchase new merchandise, notify all your scheduled venues of the name change, and rebranding yourself under a new name? It’s important to protect your band trademark as soon as possible. A little money now can save you a lot of money down the road.
- Marketing is worthless without a name.
- Make sure the name is protected.
What Classes Should I File For?
Typically bands offer three different types of goods/services:
- Sound recordings (international class 9)
- Clothing (international class 25) (“that proves you were there, that you heard of them first” – Cake)
- Live musical performances (international class 41)
- You don’t necessarily need to file in all the above classes, however, it does provide you additional trademark protection. You will at least want to obtain protection in international class 41 for live musical performances, because that is crux of your existence.
Other Band Trademark Questions
If you have other trademark or copyright questions please submit them via our contact page. We’ll continually update this page to further assist musicians with their intellectual property questions. Order a Trademark Search and Registration by simply clicking below.