A frequently asked question by musicians is how do they protect their band name and second, by what means do they do it? Although the musician’s first thought is to ask about copyright that is not the way to do it and in fact, the Copyright Office will tell you this. In response to the question of whether you can copyright your band name they tell us this: “No. Names are not protected by copyright law. Some names may be protected under trademark law.”
So, now we know that trademarking your name is the way to go and in fact most experts will tell you this. However, what does the process involve and what essentially can be trademarked? Fortunately, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has assembled some excellent information for musicians and indeed any musician interested in applying for a trademark should watch the following video which was put out by the USPTO:
Despite all of the above, the question still lingers with some musicians who wonder if they have to register at all. Although it is highly advisable you might still be protected even if you don’t register. That is because the United States is a what is considered a “common law” jurisdiction which means that artists can acquire rights to a trademark by simply being the first to use the mark in actual commerce in connection with a specific class of goods or services. In fact, an artist without a registration can even file suit to stop an infringer, even if the infringer has a registration.
Another common question or concern is how is a trademark is protected outside of the United States and the answer to that can be found in something called the Madrid Protocol. Essentially, the Madrid system is the primary international mechanism for facilitating the registration of trademarks in multiple jurisdictions around the world and it more or less is an international treaty that extends trademark protection to foreign countries that are members of the “Madrid Union.” There are currently 117 countries which are member parties and for a listing of these countries please visit here. Thus, the good news is that domestic diligent efforts–through one application–can result in international protection of your trademark.
What’s in a name? For a musician, the answer is a lot so take care of it. Register today.