How Artists Can Protect Their Stage Name

What is a Trademark?

Trademarks protect names, terms and symbols that are used to identify the source of goods and/or services on the market. Trademarks have enormous value to their owners because they allow consumers to be able to tell them apart from competitors, and to protect the goodwill, or “brand equity,” that they have established amongst their audiences. Customers or users of a brand will come to expect a certain quality and/or style, so Trademarks serve to protect an owner against someone else using his or her Trademark, on an inferior good, thereby harming his or her brand.

Why Register the Trademark?

US Trademark law automatically entitles artists to certain rights simply by being the first to use the mark in actual commerce, however, actually registering a Trademark serves a few important purposes. First, registration gives “constructive notice” to subsequent bands that you have the rights to a name, and provides the best evidence of your use of the mark in commerce. Secondly, U.S. Trademark registration allows you to sue in federal court for Trademark infringement. Otherwise, you may be able to still sue in state court, but your Trademark may only provide protection in the geographic area you actually used it in.

Trademark Classes

The US Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) categorizes all goods and services into various Trademark classes, and a registration in a particular class covers uses of your Trademark only in connection with that particular good or service. The classes number 01–51, but the relevant classes for artists are:

Copyrights vs. Trademarks

I have found that another major source of confusion in this area is the difference between Copyrights and Trademarks.

Filing Your Trademark Application

I highly suggest engaging a qualified Trademark attorney, because this is an expensive process that may have implications far down the line. The process takes approximately 18 months, if there are no issues with your registration.

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