If you think of a band like other consumer goods and services, then building brand recognition is vital to its continued success. When musicians create music, schedule tours, and drop their latest albums, they are exposing consumers to their brand and all of the marketing that goes with it, including the language it uses in its name and the style it decides to use for its logos. The greater the brand awareness, the more recognizable these become for the band, allowing them to build on their recognition.
This can leave many bands wondering what protections are afforded to them in the music industry. As it turns out, trademark law may be the answer they are looking for.
Trademarking your band’s name is a way to protect against others who look to profit off your name, image, or likeness. As your band’s success continues to grow, so too will the recognition that comes with it. Trademarking allows you to file litigation against those who seek to use your band’s success to their advantage through things like merchandise, name, or other recognizable features of your band’s image.
Trademarks are divided into 45 categories that seek to protect goods and services with each category. When you trademark your band’s name, you do so under one or more of these categories. It is important to know that you must identify the categories you would like your band’s name to fall under, as you only receive protections in the categories to which you apply. As an example, trademarking the name Delta as an airline does not mean it conflicts with the trademark for Delta as a faucet company. They are in two different classifications, so they are not competing with one another.
Trademarking your band’s name starts with a search through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Through their search system, you can identify if another band has registered the name or the logo that you wish to use. If it already exists, you are out of luck.
If your band name or logo is available, you need to then decide in what font or with what graphics the band name will be displayed. This will need to be a part of the application for your trademark. Then, you will use the Trademark Electronic Application System to appropriately fill out the application. You are required to pay a fee with the application, and you must file and pay for each classification that you wish your band’s name to be registered under.
When you file for the trademark, be prepared to follow up. It is often a lengthy process that may take anywhere from months to a year or more. Working with a trademark attorney can help you with the process of filing the applications correctly and understanding the timelines.
When you apply for a trademark, you must establish who owns the trademark. In the conversation of a band, there are likely multiple band members who should each share in the ownership. To this extent, you may wish to form your band into a business such as an LLC. This allows for multiple owners; then, all the filings are done through the LLC rather than to an individual band member who then owns the rights.
When you view your band as a business, you can create contractual agreements between each band member. Ensure everyone knows what is involved, what is registered to the band, and how each member can relinquish rights should they choose to leave the band. This step can be scary for some artists because it takes away the fun of just being in a band, but if you are considering a trademark, you should consider other protections that you may want your band to have as it continues to find success.
The discussion then needs to happen around the classifications you wish your trademark to fall under. It may just be entertainment or music, but there may be other areas that you wish to consider. Looking through the list of classifications can help you make the right decision.
A: Using the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark electronic application system can help you formally apply for a trademark. You will start by searching through their electronic database to find out if a trademark already exists for your band’s name or logo. Then, you will proceed through the guided instructions to properly apply.
A: The cost of a trademark can vary by both the type and how many classifications you wish to apply for. You must submit an application and pay a fee for each classification you are seeking protection under. The three categories for trademark application cost $250, $350, or $400. Which type you should seek can be discussed with a trademark attorney.
A: A band’s name is how its audience connects with them. Their name and logo become their brand recognition, and protecting that is vital to continued growth and success. To legally protect a band name, seek a registered trademark through the USPTO. This not only ensures your name is protectable, but it also helps to protect the recognition you are building.
A: Whoever takes the steps necessary to apply and ultimately gain approval of the trademark is legally entitled to the band name. For young bands, it could be a simple decision to have one person apply on behalf of all, but that can come with significant legal challenges later. The optimal way to file the trademark is to form an LLC to create equal ownership and apply using that entity.
Your band’s success is undoubtedly important to you. As your fan base grows and you continue to market yourself, your name will continue to spread. Ensuring others cannot benefit from what you have worked hard to establish will continue to keep your band’s success headed in the right direction. Seek the protections your band deserves by applying for a trademark. We know you have questions, and Four Reasons Legal can help provide the answers. Contact our trademark attorneys today.