Should you register a trademark for your album title?
Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, to help you take your career and business to the next level.
So, David wrote in with this:
I just came across one of your videos and have a questions about trademarks. My background has been mostly in the world of video and television, but I am working on a music project and I'm just curious how soon before the music goes public should I file for a trademark. Basically I have a name for an album that will have 10 to 12 songs on it. Do I need to trademark the name of the album?
Well, David, it may seem like a good idea to register the title of your album, but I have my doubts that the government would allow it.
You see the US Patent and Trademark Office has historically had a rule against registering titles of single works. And that was always pretty likely to apply to an album, a song, a book or a movie title, unless what you're registering is actually a brand that is/will be affixed to a whole LINE of goods or services. Like, for example, the “Idiots Guide” or “For Dummies” series, or something like “Harry Potter and the…” or “Star Wars”
But in 2015 there was a case where the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board ruled that a categorical ban wasn't appropriate… So now, the PTO has to determine whether the title is being used as a brand, or is just descriptive of the work. And, in the case in question, the court still ruled that the title was merely descriptive, and wasn't being used in a way that could justify trademark protection.
So, back to your album title…
I think unless you're planning on putting out a series of albums all under the same “brand” Like a series of Volumes, you'll have a hard time convincing the trademark examiner to let your registration go through. My recommendation would be to save your money on this, and if you haven't already done so, register the name of your band… That's really the brand you need to protect. And Band names CAN be registered.
Now, one more word of caution. Trademark Registration is something that people can do themselves online, and sometimes it's smooth and easy, but as I've just explained, the law and the procedural stuff can get tricky pretty fast. So, I strongly recommend that you have an attorney (like me) help you out with your trademark registrations. Yes, it costs more than doing it yourself, but it also greatly increases your chance of a successful registration the first time at bat.
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