Bands and Brands: Essential Trademark Law for Musicians April 29, 2009 Michael Atkins Washington Lawyers for the Arts
Road Map <ul><li>Trademark basics </li></ul><ul><li>Selecting and clearing trademarks </li></ul><ul><li>Trademark ownershi...
Definition of trademark <ul><li>A word, name, symbol, device, or other designation, or a combination of such designations,...
Trademarks symbolize goodwill <ul><li>“Goodwill” is the good feeling consumers have when they see, hear, or think of a sel...
Acquiring trademark rights <ul><li>Use the mark in connection with good or service  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>United States, E...
What are trademark rights? <ul><li>Exclusive use </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In relevant geographic area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul>...
Basic trademark principles <ul><li>TM law protects against “likelihood of confusion” (infringement) </li></ul><ul><li>In c...
Selecting a trademark <ul><li>Must distinguish your services from others </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For practical purposes, sho...
Clearing a trademark <ul><li>Goal is to avoid adopting trademark that’s likely to confuse consumers with prior mark </li><...
Clearing a trademark <ul><li>Research prior marks by searching: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Patent and Trademark Office database...
Avoid the band name graveyard <ul><li>BLINK    BLINK 182 </li></ul><ul><li>DINOSAUR    DINOSAUR JR </li></ul><ul><li>SYB...
Trademark ownership <ul><li>Ownership occurs through use </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If group uses mark, group as a whole probab...
Licensing basics <ul><li>License is permission to a third party to use your mark </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. , Band gives t...
Common licensing terms <ul><li>Parties (licensor and licensee) </li></ul><ul><li>Description of mark </li></ul><ul><li>Res...
Common licensing terms <ul><li>Goodwill inures to licensor’s benefit </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Means benefits of TM use will f...
Common licensing terms <ul><li>Quality control </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Crucial term </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Musician must...
Right of publicity <ul><li>RCW 62.60 (plus about 20 other states) </li></ul><ul><li>Property right in the use of your name...
Musician’s trademark strategy <ul><li>Think globally </li></ul><ul><ul><li>U.S. trademark law not only law at issue </li><...
Musician’s trademark strategy <ul><li>Consider U.S. registration </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Expands rights to entire United Sta...
Musician’s trademark strategy <ul><li>Register domain name (.com) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Also get Myspace, Facebook, Twitte...
Legal issues you can avoid <ul><li>Claims of trademark infringement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. , Wailers (Tacoma) sues Wai...
Legal issues you can avoid <ul><li>Use of trademarks in music </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mattel v. MCA Records   </li></ul></ul...
Legal issues you can avoid <ul><li>Loss of trademark rights </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Through 3+ years of nonuse </li></ul></u...
Questions? <ul><li>Michael Atkins </li></ul><ul><li>Graham & Dunn </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>(206...
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Transcript of "Bands And Brands Essential Trademark Law For Musicians"

  1. 1. Bands and Brands: Essential Trademark Law for Musicians April 29, 2009 Michael Atkins Washington Lawyers for the Arts
  2. 2. Road Map <ul><li>Trademark basics </li></ul><ul><li>Selecting and clearing trademarks </li></ul><ul><li>Trademark ownership </li></ul><ul><li>Licensing basics </li></ul><ul><li>Right of publicity </li></ul><ul><li>Developing a trademark strategy </li></ul>
  3. 3. Definition of trademark <ul><li>A word, name, symbol, device, or other designation, or a combination of such designations, that is used in commerce in a manner that distinguishes the goods or services of its owner from those of others </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s an identifier of source </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Includes names and logos </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Trademarks symbolize goodwill <ul><li>“Goodwill” is the good feeling consumers have when they see, hear, or think of a seller or its trademark </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In economic terms, it is the probability that, based on this good feeling, consumers will come back in the future </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. , Consumer hears song on radio, wants to buy CD </li></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Acquiring trademark rights <ul><li>Use the mark in connection with good or service </li></ul><ul><ul><li>United States, England, Australia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Automatic rights in geographic area where mark is used </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Registration expands rights to entire U.S. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>By registering </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most countries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Important if performing, selling outside U.S. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. What are trademark rights? <ul><li>Exclusive use </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In relevant geographic area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tied to specific goods/services </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Right to enjoin others </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Prevent other users from using same or confusingly similar mark </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Limited by area, goods/services </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Basic trademark principles <ul><li>TM law protects against “likelihood of confusion” (infringement) </li></ul><ul><li>In conflict between mark owners, first to use mark in commerce generally wins </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Senior” user has priority over “junior” user </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Use” means in connection with good/service sold </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Use as a domain name not sufficient </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Trademark rights last forever if continuously used </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rights presumed abandoned after 3 years of nonuse </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Selecting a trademark <ul><li>Must distinguish your services from others </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For practical purposes, should be memorable and unique </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tells consumers who you are </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strong trademarks are “fanciful” (DECEMBERISTS, YEAH YEAH YEAHS) or “arbitrary” (BLACK LIPS, SWAN LAKE) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Weak trademarks are “descriptive” (PETER BJORN AND JOHN) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strong marks get more protection than weak marks </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Clearing a trademark <ul><li>Goal is to avoid adopting trademark that’s likely to confuse consumers with prior mark </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Similarity in marks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sight, sound, meaning is most important </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Similarity in goods or services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If you sell live performances, CDs, and t-shirts, avoid other musicians, record labels, venues, musical equipment makers, clothiers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Similarity in distribution channels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Will goods be sold under same roof? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Will goods be advertised in same medium? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Clearing a trademark <ul><li>Research prior marks by searching: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Patent and Trademark Office database </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> Search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ASCAP </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.ascap.com/ace/search.cfm?mode=search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Google (20+ screens) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>iTunes, Amazon.com, Myspace, Wikipedia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Domain names </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.whois.net/ </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Avoid the band name graveyard <ul><li>BLINK  BLINK 182 </li></ul><ul><li>DINOSAUR  DINOSAUR JR </li></ul><ul><li>SYBIL  KILL SYBIL </li></ul><ul><li>SUEDE  THE LONDON SUEDE </li></ul><ul><li>THE CHARLATANS  THE CHARLATANS U.K. </li></ul><ul><li>THE OLYMPIC HOPEFULS  THE HOPEFULS </li></ul><ul><li>THE BROKEDOWN  THE BROKEN WEST </li></ul><ul><li>Your band name  Your new band name </li></ul>
  12. 12. Trademark ownership <ul><li>Ownership occurs through use </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If group uses mark, group as a whole probably owns it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Not lead singer, manager, or record label </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What happens when group breaks up? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Deal with this issue before it occurs: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Agree who gets to continue record and perform using mark (or agree that no one gets to). </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>E.g ., “If we break up, [lead singer] gets to keep using [band’s name].” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Get agreement in writing, signed by all members, and keep in safe place </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Licensing basics <ul><li>License is permission to a third party to use your mark </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. , Band gives t-shirt maker right to sell shirts with band’s name and/or logo </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Upside to musician is $$ </li></ul><ul><li>Downside is must follow law or license can result in abandonment of mark </li></ul>
  14. 14. Common licensing terms <ul><li>Parties (licensor and licensee) </li></ul><ul><li>Description of mark </li></ul><ul><li>Restrictions on use (including restriction on goods/services) </li></ul><ul><li>Territorial scope </li></ul><ul><li>Exclusive/nonexclusive </li></ul><ul><li>Sublicensable/nonsublicensable </li></ul>
  15. 15. Common licensing terms <ul><li>Goodwill inures to licensor’s benefit </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Means benefits of TM use will flow to musician </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ownership </li></ul><ul><li>Right/duty to enforce TM rights </li></ul><ul><li>Termination </li></ul><ul><li>Taxes, indemnity, insurance </li></ul>
  16. 16. Common licensing terms <ul><li>Quality control </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Crucial term </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Musician must inspect and approve goods/services offered with licensed mark </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Failure to exercise quality control is called “naked licensing” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Leads to abandonment (forfeiture) of all trademark rights </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Right of publicity <ul><li>RCW 62.60 (plus about 20 other states) </li></ul><ul><li>Property right in the use of your name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can sue for unauthorized use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can be licensed or assigned to third parties </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Right exists after you die, so heirs can exploit your right </li></ul>
  18. 18. Musician’s trademark strategy <ul><li>Think globally </li></ul><ul><ul><li>U.S. trademark law not only law at issue </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If perform or sell music in Canada, Europe, or Japan, need to worry about their laws </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Both in clearance and acquiring TM rights </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Nirvana (UK) complained about Nirvana (Seattle) when Seattle band came to England </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Most countries require registration </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Musician’s trademark strategy <ul><li>Consider U.S. registration </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Expands rights to entire United States </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prevents later-comers from registering confusingly similar marks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evidence of mark’s ownership </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>$325+ for one class of goods/services (plus attorney’s fees) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Class 9 (covers sound and video recordings) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Class 41 (covers live performances) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Musician’s trademark strategy <ul><li>Register domain name (.com) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Also get Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, etc., accounts in your band’s name before someone else does </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Need to “police” mark </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Failure to enforce TM rights eventually can result in loss of those rights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Police with “cease-and-desist” letter </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Legal issues you can avoid <ul><li>Claims of trademark infringement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. , Wailers (Tacoma) sues Wailers (Jamaica) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Solution : Search and clear mark before adopting it </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Claims of ownership of trademark </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Former member, manager, record label claim ownership </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Solution : Have written agreement defining rights </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Claims of right to use trademark by affiliate </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Solution : Have written license agreement defining rights </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Legal issues you can avoid <ul><li>Use of trademarks in music </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mattel v. MCA Records </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Aqua’s use of BARBIE trademark ok </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“The parties are advised to chill.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parks v. LaFace Records </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Outkast’s use of Rosa Parks’ name as song title less clear when song not about Rosa Parks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parody ok, courts temper concern about TM rights with concern about free speech </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Legal issues you can avoid <ul><li>Loss of trademark rights </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Through 3+ years of nonuse </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Through naked license </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Through failure to police trademark rights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Through failure to obtain rights in registration-based countries </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Questions? <ul><li>Michael Atkins </li></ul><ul><li>Graham & Dunn </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>(206) 340-9614 </li></ul><ul><li>SeattleTrademarkLawyer.com </li></ul>

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