Choosing a name for your new band can be exciting. But, there are many bands out there, meaning there is a good chance that your band name is already used by someone else. So, how do you check if a band name is taken?
Search the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to check if a band name is taken. If the name you want to use is not yet taken, you should take steps to gain legal rights.
To “own” a band name, you need to trademark it. The US entity for trademarking is the USPTO, but it will differ depending on where you live. For more tips on trademarking your band name, read below.
Please note, this article is for entertainment purposes only. You should consult an attorney about band name legalities.
Methods You Can Use To Turn Your Band Name into a Worldwide Trademark
The Worldwide Band Name Registry has a large online directory of band names worldwide. It lets you establish your name in the market and ward off copycats. It’ll also include your band’s name in a trade publication registered with the Library of Congress and the British Reference Library.
You can register your name here for $15, but it won’t provide trademark protection. Instead, you can use the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to establish a worldwide trademark. But, until you plan on a worldwide tour, having an international trademark is a bit much.
You can perform a trademark search using the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) if you are from Europe. For everyone else, Google “trademark database” next to your country name.
Are There Any Legal Restrictions for Band Names I Should Know About?
From a legal perspective, trademarking a band name has several limitations.
First, you can’t use a band name already in use. So, if someone else already has it, you can’t use it. However, if they haven’t trademarked it, you can swipe it from under them (which is a bit underhanded).
You also need to be careful when naming your band from popular media. It might make it impossible for you to go through trademark registration. You also might need permission from the original creator of the work.
How Do I Claim Rights To A Band Name In the US?
On a state-by-state level, you may qualify for some legal protections if you’ve been actively using your band name for business for a certain amount of time, though that time varies between states. Additionally, these protections only apply locally and can’t protect you online.
To federally register your band name for a trademark, you’ll want to first search to make sure it’s available. If it is, you’ll begin the registration process, during which time you’ll need to decide who will own the trademark rights – you as an individual or your band as a company. Your application will be reviewed and examined for publication.
Your trademark will be published in the Trademark Official Gazette for 30 days if approved. During that time, if someone thinks your band name will hurt them, they can oppose its registration. If no one opposes, your trademark will begin the registration process.
After it’s registered, you’ll get a certificate of registration delivered digitally, which you keep for your records. You can also order a presentation copy for $25.
To keep your registration, you must use your band name continuously in a professional capacity, keep up with maintenance fees and documents (you can find those here), and keep your contact information up to date with the USPTO.
How much does it cost to trademark a band name?
The actual cost of trademarking your band name depends on several factors, but ranges between $250-$500, with renewal fees costing upward of $300 after a certain number of years.
There is no fee for online filing, but for paper filing, you could be charged upwards of $750 just for the initial application.
How long does it take to trademark a band name?
Trademarking is not a quick process. From start to finish, applying for and receiving proof of trademark registration can take six months and a year or longer. It’s a good idea to begin the trademarking process as early as possible in your business.
As a note, you can use “TM” after your band name to indicate that you have claimed the name and are in the process of trademarking it. Still, you can’t use the actual trademark symbol – ® – until you have your certificate after your registration is complete.
How Can I Protect My Band’s Music?
While a trademark will protect your band name, it won’t necessarily protect your music. To do that, you’ll want to file for copyright protection.
While band names can’t be copyright protected – you can’t copyright a name or short phrase – music can be, as it is considered an independent creative work. Doing so will keep others from using your music without your express permission and can give you legal recourse if you do find that your music has been stolen.
Technically, all creative works are automatically copyright protected when they are created. That being said, verifying your copyright documentation can help add a layer of protection and improve your case should you ever need to defend your work in court.
Creating a band can be both exciting and exhausting. Suppose you want to avoid headaches and heartbreak down the line. In that case, it’s best to make sure that your band’s name is completely original from the outset, and to approach the creation of your band as the creation of a business – that way, you and your bandmates are protected should anyone try to infringe on your name or your style.