By: Reggie Webb
A few years back I was at a music seminar in Chicago conversating with an artist that was recovering from ending up on the losing side of a legal incident. He was telling me that he had a single that gained major traction in the Midwest and in a few southern areas as well. The buzz of this single gained the attention of a major label and a few independent labels as well. So, he took a meeting with a label that showed a lot of interest in signing him but after a few hours of negotiating they couldn’t come to an agreement. A month after this meeting, this artist said he received a cease and desist letter informing him that he could no longer use his name or his slogan that was attached to his single. He didn’t understand the legal terminology of the document, so he consulted a lawyer. After research was done by this attorney, he learned that this label trademarked his name and his slogan and legally he had no rights to use them. He was furious, confused, and hurt and the attorney said these words to him, “there is no sympathy for ignorance in the music industry”.
Now that I have your attention, I’m sure if you don’t know obviously your wondering. What is a trademark? A trademark typically protects brand names, artist names, business names, slogans, and logos used on goods and services. An example of trademarks would be the Starbucks logo, NBC logo, Interscope logo, the Nike logo along with the phrase, “just do it”, or the Papa John’s phrase “better ingredients better pizza”. These symbols and phrases are protected by the federal trademark laws of this country. When it comes to the music industry most artist have stage names that are different from their government names. So, just as it’s important to copyright your music, it’s equally as important to trademark your stage name and a logo if you have one. Your logo becomes a trademark when it appears on labels, packaging or the product itself and the public recognizes the company behind the combination of colors and shapes.
To register a name, logo, or phrase go to the US Patent and Trademark office website which is www.upsto.gov. Search the name or slogan or logo you want to trademark to make sure it’s not already taken. This may be a tedious process, but it will all be worth it in the end. As previously stated, “there is no sympathy for ignorance in the music industry”. So, to avoid being taken advantage of arm yourself with knowledge of how the business behind the music works. Never forget music is only 10 to 15% the other 85 to 90% is strictly business. Stay under the umbrella of knowledge and understanding to avoid getting rained on by lack of knowledge and misfortunes.