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Band name legality, US and Europe

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by jkimbrell, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. jkimbrell

    jkimbrell Active Member

    Dec 5, 2010
    Hey all,

    I have a band, and I want to register the name so I own the rights. Everything is clear in terms of US Trademark registration, ASCAP.com and BMI.com, and bandname.com registrations. The name is not registered there.

    But, 2 bands, aside from us, are using the name on myspace. They do not appear to be active, however. One is in California, the other in Germany.

    I want to register the name in the US, as well as in Europe, because I am an American living in Norway.

    What am I allowed to do?
  2. natural

    natural Active Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    At some point, a lawyer is going to be involved. Get them involved now. They might have options that you/we would never have thought of, especially when it comes to international law.
  3. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Moderator Resource Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Hi, welcome to RO.

    **disclaimer - I'm not a lawyer, you should find one as natural suggests.

    Below are some legal situations I have personally discussed with friends who are on one end or the other of each of these situations.

    I remember a show I was working crew at the local university in the early 90's when a nationally known band came through. They were collecting print ads and any other press they could find related to the show. It was to help establish the extent that their (somewhat common) name is part of their stock and trade.

    You may not be able to do what you want to do, unless/until you can prove you were indisputably the first, the most recognizable, and/or, are a dominant worldwide enterprise for an extended period of time, crushing all others. Which is what they were trying to do. At which point your lawyer would send them a threatening letter telling them to 'cease and desist' using that name. At which point they would fight it, or add another word that makes them unique again. [ever been to NY and seen Ray's Pizza, and Original Ray's Pizza, and Famous Ray's Pizza, and Original Famous Ray's Pizza?]

    Since you and the other bands are obviously in the same trade (making music), often times this turns out to be a territorial thing. If the other bands care to contest it (in court), and can prove they are doing business - and are well established under the same name in their region, they are allowed to use the name in their respective areas. You are given the rights in certain places you perform and sell product. They are entitled to use the name, but they obviously cannot use your trademarked logo.

    In your case, free facespace sites would not legitimize the other bands in any way. Even owning the domain names wouldn't really establish anything significant.

    Even when a successful band splits up and there is a dispute over who legally can continue playing under the band's profitable name, it can end up being territorial. The world is full of 'trademark bands', where the record company or publishing company sold the trademark of a band from the past with a couple hits. The band that owns the trademark then tours the 'nostalgia band has-been band circuit' making a nice living from the fame of the other band without anybody that ever played in the original band. Without those legal rights, even the founding members who made the band famous aren't allowed to use that successful name.

    Entertainment law, trademark law are sticky enough. Add the international aspect and it could be a real mess. You may need a lawyer who specializes in international copyright/trademark law.

    One last thing, before you stir up this hornets' nest, you need to be sure you've got your company affairs in order and your personal affairs in order (having done all the appropriate paperwork and paying all the applicable taxes wherever you claim to be an established money-making business venture) - Otherwise you might be opening the door to a world of grief.

    Best of luck! Maybe someone else will contribute some other solutions or good news.

    [How many decades did it take apple records and apple computers to bury the hatchet? - And they weren't even remotely in the same business until iTunes came along - which spurred a whole new batch of lawsuits]

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