Musicians are often confused about what a trademark is or if they really need to register their trademark. Marcella Dominguez, a trademark lawyer, joins Aaron Sefchick and Joe McMurray to discuss the benefits and costs of registering a trademark for your band or music business.
As an example, because Metallica trademarked their logo, nobody else can use something that looks or sounds like “Metallica.” This protects them against impersonators hoping to profit from their success – nobody else can put on a show or event and falsely use the name “Metallica” to bring in an audience, nobody else can perform under the name “Metallica,” potentially playing poorly and damaging the reputation of the band, nobody else can sell “Metallica” merchandise, etc. Trademarks assert position and show professionalism, they help the consumer to know the difference between the real brand and any competitors or impersonators, and they protect you from anyone trying to infringe on what you’ve built.
Joe asks Marcella for advice regarding his old band, “Albino Rhino,” which struggled to differentiate itself from a Swedish band of the same name. He had applied for a trademark in the past only to have it denied because it “looked too similar” to the Rhino Records trademark. Marcella explains how you or a lawyer can draft an argument to appeal the decision by the US Patent and Trademark Office. She also talks about how US trademark law works outside of US borders.
Marcella, Aaron, and Joe discuss the potential to trademark one’s name. Then they talk about copyrighting songs, and how to provide proof and evidence that you are the author of your work.
Any good conversation about music legalities should bring up the recent “Blurred Lines vs. Got to Give it Up (Marvin Gaye)” lawsuit, so it was discussed.
Marcella tells Aaron and Joe how much it costs to hire a lawyer to register your trademark and how much it costs to register your trademark by yourself at uspto.gov. She provides useful advice on things to watch out for if you decide to register your trademark on your own: Make sure your drawing is final and exact, make sure you register under the correct categories (music/entertainment, CD/audio-visual recordings, merchandise, etc.), and check out the trademark information of other registered trademarks in the same realm as yours (i.e. if you are thinking about registering your podcast’s trademark, look up the trademark info for other podcasts’ trademarks to see what categories they are registered under, etc.).
Useful links regarding trademarks:
Find out more about Marcella at:
She also hosts The A.M. Show, a podcast about ambitious and motivated people.
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