Whether you’re a solo artist or part of a band, trademarking your stage name is one way to protect your artist brand and maintain your individuality.
After all, the music business is a “business” for a reason. And like any other business or industry, it’s all about trade. So for you as a trading musician, trademarking means having the right to create, record and sell your music - in your own exclusive name
Step-by-step guide to trademarking an artist or band name
Why is trademarking important for musicians?
Firstly it’s important to note that trademarking your band or artist name is by no means compulsory.
Unlike music copyright, which automatically assigns rights to the creator or owner of a piece of original work, trademarking doesn't come about automatically. Instead – it’s something that you must register to do.
So although trademarking your artist or band name isn’t necessarily mandatory, it’s really important to do it anyway.
Why? There’s two main reasons.
First off, it..
Prevents any duplication of an artist or band name
Finding out you share the same name with another artist or act can cause major issues down the line – in terms of both cost and reputation. Changing your name is not a route you wanna go down, so best avoid it from the get go.
And secondly, it..
Protects your domain name & social profiles
Trademarking your name also gives you the right to shut down any phoney or fake profiles trying to impersonate you online or make money from your music. If you’ve worked hard to build a strong online presence, registering your name means it won’t get tarnished or swiped by the group of wannabe wombats next door.
So now you know why trademarking is so important, the following steps will outline how to trademark your artist or band name!
1. Carry out an initial Google search.
Before you can apply to trademark your performing name, it first needs to qualify for trademark protection. Which essentially means your proposed name can’t be already in use by another artist.
And more than that, it can’t be too similar to an already in-use name.
So for example, Chance the DJ, Charli CXC, Justin Timberflake – yep, you guessed it. They’re all invalid for use.
Names like these would be considered by copyright governments as “confusingly similar”, and could cause members of the public to mistakenly stream or download a track who they’d perceived to be by someone else.
So start by using Google to do a quick similarity background check.
You’re in the Google search clear? Great! But it doesn’t end there..
2. Carry out a search via your chosen trademark database
Next you’ll need to do a bit of a deeper dive.
You can do this by searching for the name you want to trademark, within the trademark database of the specific country or territory you live in.
This is a really important step as the results will not only bring up any already registered trademarks with the same name as yours, but also any applications which are currently pending.
You can find the correct trademarking registry office to search and apply from via the below list of territories/countries:
USA: United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO)
UK: GOV UK
Europe: European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
Canada: Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
Australia: Australian Government IP Australia (IPA)
South Africa: Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC)
Chile: Instituto Nacional de Propiedad Industrial (INAPI)
Mexico: Mexican Industrial Property Institute (IMPI)
India: Intellectual Property India (IPI)
Money-wise, the cost for trademarking your artist or band name will vary based on which global trademark office you’re using. You can locate individual pricing information via the FAQs section on each database’s website.<br>
Top Tip: When you’re carrying out your search, make sure to check for similar names and/or common misspellings.
3. File your online application form.
You’ve searched and screened and your name’s in the clear. Hooray! Now it’s time to fill out the actual trademark application form.
You’ll need to have the following pieces of info at hand:
- Ownership information: who will own the trademark? If you’re a single artist, then you’ll most likely own the trademark. If you’re a band however, you’ll need to make sure each member has shared ownership of their name.
- Evidence of use: you can provide evidence if you’re already using the proposed trademarked name. For example, your logo graphic on a promotional poster or branded merch.
- Correspondence information: contact details for the person who will speak with the examining attorney if there are any issues with your application form.
There’s two sections which are really important to get right when filling out your application form.
1. Field category
This refers to the category or class you want your trademark to cover. As trademarks are an industry-wide phenomenon, there’s a lot of different classifications you can choose from. So make sure you select the right one(s) for your trademark as a musician.
The category numbers will differ between government offices, but the categories most relevant to you will be those that deal with recorded music & live or public music performances.
So for example, that’s class no.41 for the UK GOV registry office - ‘Music recording’
If you’re unsure about which category you fall into, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of a music lawyer, manager or attorney to guide you. It might cost you but it’s worth it to get this part right.
2. Standard or special character description
This refers to how your artist or band name is formatted, either in standard form, or with special characters.
For example, Rapper will.i.am uses spacing to format the letters in his name. While Joey Bada$$ uses dollar symbols as characters in his name.
So make sure to describe whether or not you’re filing a trademark in standard character form, or using special characters like the above examples to format your name.
You’ve applied to copyright an artist name – now what?
After you’ve sent off your application, you can check the status of it every couple of weeks. Some trademarks will be reviewed and approved after as little as 3 or 4 months, while others can take up to a year or longer.
Remember - unlike copyrighting your music which has an indefinite expiration date, beyond even an artist’s death – a trademark will expire after a certain amount of time.
The number of years differs between countries and governments. In the US & UK, trademarking registration will only last for 10 years. This means you’ll need to register your trademarked name again at the end of that decade, as long as you’re still actively making music under it.