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Written by Ramsey Brown.
With so much talent flooding the music industry, it’s important that artists differentiate themselves in any way possible. One of the most obvious ways to do this is through a unique and distinctive stage name. However, a common issue that many bands and artists run into is when other acts have the same or similar name as them.
Duplicate artist names can raise many different problems, for many different reasons. Beyond the fact that fans will have a hard time searching and finding your music when you share a common name with another musician, it can also bring up major legal implications too.
Music copyrights are a commonly discussed topic within the industry. Copyrights work to protect things like creative ideas, and works of art such as sound recordings or musical compositions. With copyright protection, no one can take your musical creation and claim it as their own.
Just like copyrights protect intellectual property, a trademark protects things like logos, slogans, and names. Having your artist or band name properly registered as a trademark can prevent you from having to change your name entirely later on. More importantly, it can prevent legal actions or lawsuits against you in the future, if another person or entity had the same or similar name before you.
So, how do you obtain ownership of a trademark and guarantee that you and your stage name are covered in the long run? Through this guide, we are going to explain how exactly you can register your name as a trademark, walking you through every step necessary to do so.
In the 5 minutes it will take you to read this article, you will have the knowledge you need to safeguard your career for the next 50+ years. So, let’s dive in!
Unlike music copyright, which automatically assigns rights to the creator or owner of a piece of original work, trademarking doesn't come about automatically. Instead – it’s something that you must register to do.
Although trademarking your artist or band name isn’t necessarily mandatory, it’s really important to do it anyway, and for two main reasons:
Preventing Duplicate Artist or Band Names
Protecting Your Domain Name, Social Profiles, & Overall Reputation
So now you know why trademarking is so important, the following steps will outline how to trademark your artist or band name!
Before you can apply to trademark your performance name, it first needs to qualify for trademark protection. This essentially means that your attested name can’t already be already used by another artist. Furthermore, it can’t be too similar to another artist's name either.
For example, names like Big Nas Y, Fled Zeppelin, or Katy Fairy are all invalid for use. Names like these would be considered by copyright governments as “confusingly similar” — and could cause someone to mistakenly stream or download a track that they thought to be someone else's.
The easiest way to check if your name is available is to look up the name you want to use on Google and see if anything comes up. If not, the odds might be in your favor. However, even if a Google search shows that there’s supposedly nobody else out there using that name, you’re not fully in the clear just yet.
Next you’ll want to use the search on the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) website to look for registered trademarks or cases where a trademark application is pending: http://www.uspto.gov/.
From the homepage, click on Trademarks. Then click on Searching Trademarks.
For name searches, click the button — Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
Next click, Basic Word Mark Search (New User)
Once you are on the search page, type in the trademark you are looking for and follow the codes, which are explained on the page.
Note: recorded music is an international class 009, so enter 009[IC] in the search if you are only wanting to search for names of artists or musical acts.
Also, when you are carrying out your search, be sure to look for similar names and common misspellings. Once you’ve been as thorough as you can and you’re still not seeing any competition for your band name, it’s time to file the paperwork to register your trademark.
This refers to the category or class you want your trademark to cover. These descriptions will be necessary to provide as you go through your application process. As trademarks are an industry-wide phenomenon, there’s a lot of different classifications you can choose from. So make sure you select the right one(s) for your trademark as a musician.
The category numbers will differ between government offices, but the categories most relevant to you will be those that deal with recorded music & live or public music performances.
You can use the link, http://tess2.uspto.gov/netahtml/tidm.html to search what description most accurately describes the service or product you offer.
This process can take some time and needs to be done thoroughly. For instance, when you type in ‘Music’ into the search, there around around 181 different music related descriptions that will pop up.
There are a couple of different applications options available, TEAS Plus and TEAS Standard. We recommend reading the information regarding each application and choosing which one is best suited for you.
No matter which application you go with, you will need to have the following pieces of information on hand:
Ownership Information: who is going to own the trademark? If you’re a single artist, then you’ll most likely own the trademark. If you’re a band however, you’ll need to make sure each member has shared ownership of their name.
Evidence of Use: You can provide evidence if you’re already using the proposed trademarked name. For example, your logo graphic on a promotional poster or branded merch.
Correspondence Information: This identifies who the Examining Attorney can speak to if there’s an issue with your application.
Class Description/Field Category: explained in step 3.
Standard or Specific Character Description: This refers to how your artist or band name is formatted, either in standard form, or with special characters. If you are using any special characters in your name such as a $, !, or ( ), you’ll need to clearly explain this in your character description form.
After you’ve sent off your application, you can check the status of it within a couple of weeks. Just know that some trademarks will be reviewed and approved after around 3 or 4 months, while others can take up to a year or longer. You can check the process using the serial number you receive once you file your application.
Remember, unlike copyrighting your music which has an indefinite expiration date, beyond even an artist’s death – a trademark will expire after a certain amount of time.
The number of years differs between countries and governments. In the US & UK, trademarking registration will only last for 10 years. This means you’ll need to register your trademarked name again at the end of that decade, as long as you’re still actively making music under it.
While registering for a trademark is completely doable on your own, the application process is robust and can easily get confusing and overwhelming.
If you have any difficulty, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is available to help you. Additionally, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of a music lawyer, manager or attorney to guide you through this process. It might cost you up front, but it could also save you money and time on having to endure multiple applications and filing fees if you get something wrong.
Once you have submitted your application, you can only go back in to make minor changes to it if necessary. If you make a major mistake on the application, you will have to file an entirely new application and pay the filing fee once again.
Trademarking your artist name is one of the most important things to take care of as a professional musician. With this information we have provided you, we feel confident that you can successfully get through the trademark application process on your own. However, never be afraid to ask for help to ensure complete accuracy and protection in the future.
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© 2023 Omari MC, LLC. All Rights Reserved.