How do I Copyright a Band Name?

Tara Barnett

One cannot copyright a band name. The band name itself must be trademarked. One can copyright a band name that is depicted in a certain way, such as on a shirt or in a logo, but the name itself is subject to different legislation. To copyright a band name logo, one typically follows normal copyright procedures, such as registering with the appropriate agency in one's country. While one cannot copyright a band name, it is possible to trademark a band name through parallel agencies.

Although having a trademark provides legal protection, it is not a mandatory part of having a band.
Although having a trademark provides legal protection, it is not a mandatory part of having a band.

The process used to trademark a band name differs by area, but typically involves registering with a trademark office. Rules enforced by the particular office may differ slightly, but common requirements include demonstration of use, fitting certain uniqueness constraints, and paying relevant fees to the office and any lawyers involved. Often, one is allowed to trademark a logo or mark when one trademarks a band name, which can be a useful package for bands. Following the office's directions and carefully filling out all relevant forms and paperwork is essential to trademarking a band name.

The correct way to protect a band name is the trademark application process.
The correct way to protect a band name is the trademark application process.

It is typically possible to apply for a band name trademark online. The precise form or application used for this process varies by country. One usually does not need to be a resident of a country in order to register a trademark in that country, but it is essential to understand the rules governing band names wherever one registers. It is usually possible to fill out all appropriate documentation on one's own, but some people consult with a lawyer to determine what option is best for the band.

One thing to consider when attempting to trademark a band name is whether or not another band already has rights to that name, either through trademark or use. A band that does not have a name trademarked but who can clearly demonstrate longstanding use of a name may have the rights to a band name. Using the Internet to search for other bands with the same name can be a good first step before going through the trademark process.

While one cannot copyright a band name, the trademark process is similar in that one's rights to the name are not dependent on registration, although registration can be legally valuable. If one has notoriety using a name and conducts a significant amount of business under that name, one is not likely to have that name swept out from under one's feet. The most essential part of this strategy is developing a presence and demonstrating that one is the original user. A trademark provides legal protection. It is not a mandatory part of having a band.

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Discussion Comments


I'm surprised that you can't copyright a band name in the same way companies copyright business names. To me, this seems very close to the same thing. You wouldn't want another band reaping rewards based on your name just like a famous company wouldn't want another company using its name to lure customers.


@Feryll I do not know the exact laws for copyrighting in regard to television programs, but I do know of a similar case to the situation you mentioned with your friend's band. There was a very popular TV show in the '80s that shared the same name with a band that had been around a while, but hadn't been well known.

After the TV show became popular, so did the band. The TV show's lawyers told the band to change the name or they would have to go to court to try to keep it. The band ended up adding one more word to their name, so they were free from any potential legal issues.


I have a friend who plays in a band. He is a drummer, and he has been playing with the band since college. All added up, I guess he has been with the group for about six years. They are very popular on college campuses and at local festivals and local bars and clubs. They make a decent living, and they don't have any problems finding work.

The bands popularity has led to one major problem recently. The bands presence and the bands name have come to the attention of the producers of a local TV show. As it turns out, the TV show and the band share the same name, and the TV show came first. The producers of the show have threatened to sue the band if they continue to use the name.

Can they do that? I know they can sue, but can they actually win and legally make the band give up the name?

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