The New Stuff




A common misunderstanding is the idea that one can “copyright” a band name. While it is possible to copyright the design of a band logo, the band name itself is not copyrightable. Band names are protectable under trademark law, because like “brand names” they allow us to distinguish one band’s music and identity from another. They are what enable us to distinguish between a “Beatles” record on the one hand, and a “Chipmunks” or “Wiggles” record on the other.

Technically speaking, a “trademark” is a word, symbol or device (such as a brand name or logo) that distinguishes one set of goods from another. Band names are actually considered “service marks” because they help distinguish between providers of entertainment services. If they are used in interstate commerce, trademarks and service marks can both be registered with the U.S. Office of Patents and Trademarks. Besides obtaining registration of a service mark, a band may also register its name as a trademark if it is associated with specific merchandise, such as record albums, t-shirts or school lunch boxes.

In addition to Federal registration, trademarks and service marks may also be registered on on a State-by-State basis. While Federal registration is the best way to protect your rights to a band name, even State registration of your mark is better than no registration at all.


Even without registration, your band may have some rights to your band’s name if the name is been actively being used on a commercial basis. The extent of “common law” rights your band name may have acquired will depend on how long, and in what regions, the name has been used. If your band name has been established in a particular region, it is possible to prevent subsequent bands from using the same name in that region. By the same token, two bands with the same name may each acquire common-law rights to the name in their respective territories. While this arrangement may not bother a small band performing in only in one geographic area, it can lead to serious problems if that band later becomes more ambitious. For instance, if band #1 from the Northeast scores a big record deal or attempts a national tour, it may be necessary to purchase any common law rights band #2 may have acquired in the same name in California. If band #2 doesn’t want to give up its name, or their price is too high, then band #1 may have no choice but to change its name.


To avoid the above scenario, it is advisable to register your band’s name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Besides giving “constructive notice” to subsequent bands that you have pre-existing rights to a name, U.S. registration allows you to sue in Federal Court for trademark infringement. The actual threat of a federal lawsuit for trademark infringement is usually enough to deter other bands from using your name.

To receive any protection under state or federal trademark law you must first establish that your band name has been “used in commerce.” It is not enough merely to think of a clever name – you need to show that you have publicly used the name in a commercial manner. For Federal registration, you must also establish proof that the name was used in “interstate” commerce, i.e., that your band name has been commercially used in more than one state, whether through sale of records, advertisements for shows, etc. Once you succeed in registering your band name as a Federal service mark, you are presumed to be the owner of that name throughout the United States, except for any rights which preexisting users may have acquired earlier under common law.


Although trademark rights are generally granted to whoever can establish prior commercial use, it is now possible to reserve a name with the U.S. Office of Patents and Trademarks by filing an “intent to use” (ITU) registration. For instance, say you want to register your band name, but you’ve only performed twice in Seattle and the record company won’t release your record for another five months. If you think this is a great name for your band, you can reserve it with the trademark office by showing a bona fide intent to use your “mark” on specific goods or services (such as records or a concert tour) in the near future. For the registration to be granted, you must also file subsequent proof that you in fact used the name on a commercial basis. If your ITU registration is granted, you can acquire superior rights to the name, even if another band actually uses the name before the registration was granted.


A band name is one of the most valuable assets a group can own. It can be extremely difficult to relinquish a band name and start all over again under a new moniker. Unfortunately, the loss of a band name can sometimes occur if a band fails to take the necessary precautions. Registration of your band name as a service mark is one of the best ways to retain your rights to a great name.


photo credit:

This article was written by Atty. Alan Korn and originally appeared in his website.  Mr. Korn’s work focuses on intellectual property, business law, music, photography, art, copyright, trademark and multimedia issues. Before becoming a lawyer, Mr. Korn worked as a songwriter, musician, recording artist and music journalist in the Bay Area


Unified Manufacturing is an L.A. -based one-stop-shop that offers very affordable CD/DVD/USB replication, custom printing, promotional products, warehousing and fulfillment and many more. If you need an Instant Quote on a project and you want FREE SHIPPING, simply CLICK HERE.

  • Share/Bookmark

Recently Published

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 10.45.06 AM

Creative Calendar Designs for Your Christmas Giveaway Inspiration

It’s the time of year again when we need new calendars for the ...

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 4.14.43 PM

5 creative ways Unified can help you market yourself better

When marketing yourself and your products, it’s very important ...


Creative Business Cards for Artists that Incorporate What They Do

If you’re an artist, there’s no way you should hand out a ...


5 Reasons to Put Your Portfolio in a Flash Drive Instead of a DVD

Flash drives are more expensive than DVDs, without a doubt. However, ...


12 Transparent Business Cards That Really Rock

If you want to leave a good impression, hand them something they ...


Music Packaging of the Week: Reckless Kelly’s Long Night Moon (Glow in the Dark Ink)

The GRAMMY-Nominated Long Night Moon packaging features Glow In The ...


7 Design Tips From Graphic Design God Milton Glaser

We cannot talk about graphic design without talking about Milton ...


How to Increase Sales of Your T-shirt Business in Less Than 10 Days

You’ve pretty much given it all you’ve got but your ...


Best Record Package Grammy Nominees (and The Winner) for 2016

In this day where everything is digital, you might think that hard ...

More in Copyright, musician tips (123 of 214 articles)