What I mean is, are you sure you own the rights to use that band or artist name when you create music and conduct business? In short, is your band name protected as a trademark or service mark?
Why your band name should be protected by a trademark
1. Avoid duplicate band names
You don’t want to tour and record for years under one band name, only to find out that there’s another band working under the same name in another part of the country (or world).
In that event, one of you is either going to have to change your name entirely or tack on a little extra identifier, “Charlatans UK,” “The All New…”
That’d suck because you’ll have to exert a lot of extra effort to regain the recognition you once had with the old band name. Your band name is your brand name — and if you have to change it, it’s going to cost you money too: repressing discs or vinyl with the new band name, distribution fees associated with replacing your music in stores, etc.
2. Protect your domain name and social profiles
Whichever band wins the trademark dispute is going to have the right to claim or shut down the other band’s web address and social media URLs, handles, etc. You’ve worked too hard building your online presence to have some jokers five states over kill your music career momentum just because they filed the paperwork first.
How to see if someone else is already using the band name you’d like to trademark
Well, Google is always a great place to start. Do any other band names come up in a search? If not, phew! But it doesn’t mean you’re free and clear 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/
Be sure to search for similar names and common misspellings too. If you’re still not seeing any competition for your band name, it’s time to file the paperwork to register your trademark.
Having gone through this incredibly confusing and lengthy process myself, I STRONGLY recommend hiring a lawyer to help you file everything correctly the first time around (which I did not, and ended up regretting it).
If you don’t have the budget to hire a laywer, check out “Protecting Band and Artist Stage Names” by Michael I. Santucci (an entertainment attorney who focuses on copyright, patent, and trademark law) for advice on how to register your trademark yourself.
Do you have any trademark horror stories, either in terms of filing the application or with an actual trademark dispute? Let us know all about it in the comments section below.
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[Trademark image from Shutterstock.]