Trademarks work as brand identifiers. One of the easiest identifier in the entertainment industry is a name, whether it’s a company name or artist name. There are other types of identifiers ranging from slogans, logos, smells, or sounds. All of these can actually be registered as trademarks. However, in the music business, the most common identifiers that we see are names and logos. As you continue through your career, your name will garner value. So, in this article, I will be discussing how to protect your trademark and brand, and why it matters for your music career.
If You Have Not Decided On A Name. If you are an artist or music business, the first thing you want to do is decide on your name of course. Before you start using it, go and see if anyone else is already using that name. Start your search on social media first and search for the name that you want to use, and remember to try searching alternate spellings of that name. Next, continue your search on music platforms. As an artist, your music will be put on these platforms eventually, so it is important to see if there are other artists posting music under that same name. If you find there are other artists using your name, that can be problematic. Another artist might have priority over you to use that name. Try to come up with a name that is unique and that no one else has, it will make it that much easier for you to have exclusivity, and to get a trademark registration (more on that below).
Get In touch With An Entertainment Attorney. When you find that other people are using your same name, you will want to get in touch with an Entertainment Attorney. An Entertainment Attorney can advise you regarding how to deal with infringers, and help you strategize the best path forward. Something else you can do is to check and see where the person using your name is located (if a person is located outside your country, then you might be able to avoid a fight). When we look on music platforms and social media platforms, they are world wide of course. So, just because you find someone using your name, it doesn’t mean that person is going to be a problem (or at lesast one that has to be dealt with right away).
International Trademarks. When we file our trademarks, we typically get protection in the state or country we file in, but that protection doesn’t extend to other countries, for example. In order to get a registration in another country, you have to file in that particular country. That is an important first step. If, for example, you find another artist using your name (and you are located in the U.S.), but they are located in the UK, it might not be a probelm. The other piece of this is, what do they do? I go by Miss Krystle in everything that I do artistically. When I was doing my search for Miss Krystle in the beginning, I was specifically looking to see if someone with my name was doing music, live performances, or anything related to music. Remember, your trademark is typically registered in connection with a specific good or service, but it does not provide protection related to other goods or services.
There Can Be Different Owners Of The Same Name. I ended up finding some “Miss Krystle” uses on the open market, I believe one was a makeup artist. As a makeup artist, this person is allowed to use the name, even though I own the “Miss Krystle” trademark in connection with thins like music and live performances, because she is using the trademark in a different way than me. That is what trademark law does for us. It says that even if there are multiple people using the same trademark, as long as they are not “diluting” each other or taking away from the branding by doing similar stuff, it’s actually okay. In other words, the same trademark can be registered by different users, so long as the trademarks are in association with different goods and/or services.
Get A Trademark Registration. Everything that I’ve described thus far are informal steps you can do to figure out whether you have a likelihood of success if you decide to move forward and file for trademark registration. If you live in the United States, you will want to file for federal protection through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). I would strongly recommend hiring a trademark attorney to assist you with this process. It is often a very long and difficult process, and having an expert on your side can make all the different to whether you are ultimately successful with your registration. Once you obtain a trademark registration, you are then sent what’s called a trademark certificate, which specifically says you are the exclusive owner of that trademark
It Makes Dealing With Infringers Easier. When it comes to social media platforms, having a trademark registration makes it easier to get infringing social media pages and channels taken down quickly. We have infringers who will pop up, and they know what they are doing. “Infringers” are people who actively try to take trademarks and use artist and/or business names. When you don’t have an actual registration though, that says you are the trademark owner, it’s tough to get those pages removed or blocked. As soon as you get the registration and have that piece of paper, you can go and file through an automated system on almost all social media platforms. I’ve been able to wipe out pages within hours for my clients becuase we had the trademark registration, whereas, it would be much more diffiduclt otherwise .
Trademark Certificate Needed For Lawsuit. Finally, having the trademark registration helps, especially if you are ever going to have to file a lawsuit. If you need to sue someone because they have taken your trademark in such a serious way, so now you need to file a lawsuit in order to get your damages paid, you will want to have that registration in place, which becomes especially important when seeking things like your attorney’s fees and costs.
When you decide on the name of your brand, whether you are an artist or a company, when you are ready to rock and roll on that name, remember to your trademark registration.