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Originally posted 2015-02-25 09:00:50.
Taylor Alison Swift, world renowned country music and pop sensation, is no stranger to the world of intellectual property. In recent years she has been sued for Trademark Infringement of Her Brand Lucky 13, she has created, and obtained, copyrights in chart topping albums, and pulled her music off media streaming giant Spotify. Taylor is at it again. She has recently filed for trademark rights of her works “This Sick Beat”, “Party Like It’s 1989”, amongst others. Taylor has not been granted any of these trademarks, as of yet, by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
A trademark can best be explained as a source identifier. For example, everyone knows a pair of Levi jeans by the red tag strategically placed on the back pocket of their jeans. Unlike copyrights, trademark rights do not require the phrases to be absolutely unique. If Taylor is successful in obtaining Trademark rights then these phrases, would however, serve as a unique identifier to her brand. Though many of her phrases are greetings or silly phrases, they can still be trademarked. This is determined by the distinctiveness scale. If a term is not generic, or merely descriptive, then it has a chance of obtaining a trademark. An example of this would be that no one will obtain the exclusive right in the word “ice” to sell ice packs. But if your trademark is arbitrary which means that there is no connection with the respective good or service, or fanciful like Xerox, meaning it is a completely made up term, then you will likely be granted a trademark.
Christopher Sprigman, a professor at NYU Law School specializing in trademark law had this to say about the matter, “The music industry isn’t dying, the music industry is changing. And different revenue sources are coming to the fore, and one of them is merchandise.” This statement was made is appreciation of Taylor’s trademark efforts, further stating that she is “ahead of the curve” when it comes to Trademarking random song lyrics.
It seems to be a new trend growing in the music industry, in conjunction with streaming it online. That trend is marking the artist’s territory. The move is not unusual. Artists such as Britney Spears and Beyoncé have attempted to trademark a popular song title “Toxic” or an alter ego “Sasha Fierce” says Richard Rochford, a partner in New York’s intellectual property litigation group Haynes and Boone. One of the main strategies behind this is likely the potential of licensing opportunities in the future. With the way the music market is moving, more towards the streaming arena, licensing could definitely be a smart strategy both for intellectual property rights, and brand protection.
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