Last week, I received an email from a bandleader client who’d discovered that another band had adopted the same exact name as his. Needless to say, he was upset and concerned that this other user would undermine the market for his band's goods and services. Fortunately, my client holds a registered trademark for this particular band name, so we immediately prepared a cease-and-desist letter, and sent it off to the infringer.
Even more fortunate, however, is that my client caught this very quickly after the infringer adopted the name. (within days of its first use on a merchant reviews website). In my post on the subject last month, Owners of intellectual property have a duty to “police” their trademarks and copyrights, and to take steps against infringers promptly, or they may lose their rights. So it's a good thing this client had his ear to the ground, and learned of this situation before it was too late.
Now, many trademark owners engage the services of Trademark search companies to monitor their trademarks, and alert them when any confusingly similar marks appear in public records, databases and on the internet. This service, unfortunately, can be very expensive, and is often impractical for smaller businesses and individuals.
So, how did my client find out about this infringer so quickly? Simple, he set up “Google Alerts” to notify him by email anytime a specified search term (in this case, the band's name) appeared on the web.
I think it's a good idea for anybody who's got a product or a “brand” to set up these kinds of alerts to notify them every time they're mentioned on the web. Think of how useful it can be to know when customers, vendors or others are talking about your business. Artists in the entertainment industry are themselves, the “brand”, so they should plug themselves in to get alerts about reviews, blog posts, and other mentions of their names. It's also a good idea to set up alerts for other spellings, sound-alikes, or confusingly similar phrases, so you're sure to catch everything.
While Google Alerts aren't as comprehensive, or targeted as what you'd get from a trademark search firm or PR clipping service, they're a pretty good no-cost alternative. With Google Alerts, whenever you catch someone infringing your brand, trademark, or other intellectual property, you'll be ready to contact your friendly neighborhood entertainment lawyer to protect your interests.