Trademark Your Name: A Musician’s Guide
While you certainly can perform shows and release music with a name that isn’t trademarked, doing so isn’t generally recommended. Here Randi Zimmerman walks us through the necessary steps for securing a trademark for your band/artist name.
Guest post by Randi Zimmerman of the Symphonic Blog
Making sure your brand/artist name is trademarked is an important step in establishing yourself as an artist or label in the public eye. Sure, technically you can do shows and release music under a name you haven’t technically secured, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
(Just to reiterate, it is definitely NOT a good idea…)
How to Trademark Your Brand/Artist Name
The last thing you want is to find a name you absolutely love, play tons of shows, build a huge following and realize 2 years later that someone in the UK has the same name and is legally forcing you to give it up. Not only would you have to start over when it comes to building your following all over again, but you’d lose money having to redo albums, merch and everything with that name on it. Even more, whoever wins the trademark war can force the other to shut down websites, social media profiles and anything else you used that name for.
All this sucks, but it’s easily avoidable.
How to check if your name is available
The first and easiest way to start this is literally to Google it. Look up the name you want to use and see if anything comes up. If nothing does, the odds are in your favor! However, we highly recommend you don’t stop there. Even if a Google search shows that there’s supposedly nobody else out there using that name, you’re not fully in the clear just yet.
The next step is to use the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) website to search for registered trademarks or cases where a trademark application is pending. Be sure to search for similar names and common misspellings. To do this,
- Visit the USPTO homepage.
- From there, click on “Trademarks”
- Click on the first link under that called, “Searching Trademarks”
Once you’ve been as thorough as you can and you’re still not seeing any competition for your band name, it’s time to file the paperwork to register your trademark.
How to do it
To trademark your artist name online, you’ll use the same site.
- This time, go to the menu and click on the “Trademarks” tab.
- Then, select “Filing Online”.
- To start a new filing, click on “Initial Application Form”
While you’re filling out the forms, you’ll need this information:
- Ownership Information // Who is going to own the trademark?
- Evidence of use // If you’re already using your mark (and not just planning to use it), you’ll need evidence that shows your use.
- Correspondence information // This identifies who the Examining Attorney can speak to if there’s an issue with your application.
As you go through the application, make sure you read everything very carefully. The application is robust, and if you take too long to figure things out you could run out of time.
Make sure you’re prepared and ready to go before you begin.
If you feel uneasy about handling all this, it’s totally fine to get a lawyer to fill out these forms for you to ensure perfect accuracy. However, if you know how it all works, you are perfectly capable of handling this yourself! Trademarking your artist name is one of the most important things to take care of as a professional musician. Skipping this step could end up causing you a lot of trouble and heartbreak down the road. But with these steps, you have everything you need to avoid that.