Curious artists, especially the new ones keep asking What is a Music Trademark? Whether you’re a solo artist or part of a band, trademarking your stage name is one way to protect your artist brand and maintain your individuality.
Do you want nationwide trademark protection for your name or your band’s name? As your music grows in popularity, so does your need to ensure that consumers identify you as the source of your unique sound.
After all, the music business is a “business” for a reason. And like any other business or industry, it’s all about trade. So for you as a trading musician, trademarking means having the right to create, record, and sell your music – in your own exclusive name.
Why should I trademark my artist name?
There are a number of advantages to registering a trademark or trade name. Trademarks are different from copyrights and registered business or corporate names. Trademarks are words, designs, sounds, or a combination that distinguish one’s goods and services in the marketplace. Copyrights, on the other hand, protect artistic and literary works, which include songs and sound recordings.
Unlike music copyright, which automatically assigns rights to the creator or owner of a piece of original work, trademarking doesn’t come about automatically. Instead – it’s something that you must register to do.
So although trademarking your artist or band name isn’t necessarily mandatory, it’s really important to do it anyway.
- Prevents any duplication of an artist or band name
Finding out you share the same name with another artist or act can cause major issues down the line – in terms of both cost and reputation. Changing your name is not a route you wanna go down, so best avoid it from the get-go.
- Protects your domain name & social profiles
Trademarking your name also gives you the right to shut down any phony or fake profiles trying to impersonate you online or make money from your music. If you’ve worked hard to build a strong online presence, registering your name means it won’t get tarnished or swiped by the group of wannabe wombats next door.
So now you know why trademarking is so important, the following steps will outline how to trademark your artist or band name!
What are Trademark Classes relating to Music?
Most people are generally aware that Trademark infringement lawsuits can lead to enormous judgments, so having a registered trademark in any of these classes will most likely be enough to scare a small artist from using your name or an individual from selling bootleg merchandise.
However, each distinct class does have a purpose and should be registered when possible. For example, what if you’re shopping at the mall, and find a clothing brand with your artist name? Registering the trademark for your artist name in Class 025 (Clothing) will provide you with the best evidence to protect against that.
However, to prove infringement, you nevertheless have to argue that there is a high likelihood of confusion between your brand and the other usage you find. Even if you have a registered trademark, it’s most likely impossible to argue that a lawn care company with the same name is actually infringing on your trademark (even if you registered in all 4 classes). There’s simply no way that an artist in the live entertainment industry could be confused with a lawn care company upon a Google search. In this case, these two brands do not have a similar purpose and are unrelated.
There are 45 broad Trademark classes that your mark could fall into and be registered under. Classes are organized by “goods” and by “services.” Artists eventually want to file for trademark protection in the following 4 classes:
Class 41: Education and Entertainment Services (Protection for Your Live Performances)
This class includes: Entertainment services, namely, live musical performances, live music concerts, personal appearances by a musical group, arranging and conducting of concerts, presentation of live performances, modeling for artists, movie studios, music composition services, music halls, nightclubs, orchestra services, organization of shows, organization of balls, party planning, photographic reporting, photography, production of shows, production of radio and television programs, providing amusement arcade service.
Class 9: Computer and Software Products and Electrical and Scientific Products (Protection for Your Music and Videos)
This class includes; Media content, animated cartoons, cinematographic film, CDs, downloadable music files, downloadable image files, digital media, music video recordings, and video recordings featuring music.
Class 25: Clothing and Apparel Products (Protection for Merchandise)
This class includes; Most types of clothing, including but not limited to bathing trunks/bathing drawers, bathing suits/swimsuits…Hats, Shirts, coats, collar protectors, collars /shoulder wraps, gloves, headbands, heelpieces for stockings, hoods [clothing], hosiery, jackets, jerseys…
Class 16: Paper and Printed Material Products (Protection for Posters/Stickers)
This class includes works of art and figurines of paper and cardboard…aquarelles/watercolors [paintings]/watercolors [paintings]…Paper, cardboard, and goods made from these materials, not included in other classes; printed matter [Posters]; bookbinding material; photographs; stationery…Stickers.
Procedure for the registration of a Music Trademark in Nigeria
1. Carry out an initial Google search.
Before you can apply to trademark your performing name, it first needs to qualify for trademark protection. Which essentially means your proposed name can’t be already in use by another artist. And more than that, it can’t be too similar to an already in-use name.
2. Conduct an availability search
This is a really important step as the results will not only bring up any already registered trademarks with the same name as yours, but also any applications that are currently pending.
The accredited agent is required to conduct an availability search at the Registry, to determine whether the mark is available under the relevant class. Where the trademark is not in conflict with any existing trademark, under the relevant class, the accredited agent can proceed to register the mark;
Upon confirmation of the availability of the trademark, the accredited agent will be required to fill out the relevant statutory application form detailing the personal information of the owner of the mark as well as the name and/ or specimen of the logo or mark that the applicant intends to register.
You’ll need to have the following pieces of info at hand:
– Ownership information: who will own the trademark? If you’re a single artist, then you’ll most likely own the trademark. If you’re a band, however, you’ll need to make sure each member has shared ownership of their name.
– Evidence of use: you can provide evidence if you’re already using the proposed trademarked name. For example, your logo graphic on a promotional poster or branded merch.
– Correspondence information: contact details for the person who will speak with the examining attorney if there are any issues with your application form.
There are two sections that are really important to get right when filling out your application form.
- Field category
This refers to the category or class you want your trademark to cover. As trademarks are an industry-wide phenomenon, there are a lot of different classifications you can choose from. So make sure you select the right one(s) for your trademark as a musician.
The category numbers will differ between government offices, but the categories most relevant to you will be those that deal with recorded music & live or public music performances.
- Standard or special character description
This refers to how your artist or band name is formatted, either in standard form or with special characters.
For example, Rapper will.i.am uses spacing to format the letters in his name. While Joey Bada$$ uses dollar symbols as characters in his name.
So make sure to describe whether or not you’re filing a trademark in standard character form, or using special characters like the above examples to format your name.
Upon submission of the application form and payment of the required fees, the Registry will issue an Acknowledgement Form to the accredited agent confirming receipt of the application;
Upon acknowledgment of the application, the trademark will be examined by the Registry to confirm its distinctiveness and to ensure that it is not in conflict with any previously registered trademark. An Acceptance Form will be issued when the trademark is deemed satisfactory by the Registry;
5. Publication of the Trademark
After the Acceptance Form has been issued by the Registry, the trademark application will be published in the Trademarks Journal. The publication is a public notification to interested parties who may have any reservations about the registration of the trademark. Any person who may have an objection to the registration of the trademark is required to file same with the Registry within 2 months of the publication;
6. Issue of a Certificate of Registration:
Where no objection is filed against the registration of the trademark or where such objection is withdrawn or overruled, the applicant will be issued a Certificate of Registration by the Registry.
It is important to note that trademark registration is valid for a period of 7 years at the first instance and subsequently renewable every 14 years after.
You’ve applied to trademark an artist name – now what?
After you’ve sent off your application, you can check its status of it every couple of weeks. Some trademarks will be reviewed and approved after as little as 3 or 4 months, while others can take up to a year or longer.
Remember – unlike copyrighting your music which has an indefinite expiration date, beyond even an artist’s death – a trademark will expire after a certain amount of time.
Trademarking your stage name is one way to protect your artist brand and maintain your individuality.
- Protect your trademark in Nigeria and up to 96 other territories.
- TM SEARCH: We’ll comprehensively search for existing & similar trademarks.
- Preparation and Filling of Trademark with Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment.
- Trademark protection will be filled under the following different classes: Class 9, Class 16, Class 25, and Class 41.
- Response to Objections from Examiner.
- Issuance of Registration Certificate (2 Weeks from Submission).