How to Legally Trademark a Band Name

By Lee Hall, J.D.

How to Legally Trademark a Band Name

By Lee Hall, J.D.

“That's my next band name!" If you come across a band name you love and want to pursue your dream to use it, you can register it as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Although the process takes time and attention, if done correctly, it can provide vital benefits, such as keeping others from using your band's name and empowering the band to maintain sole use of the name for commercial purposes. The band can then license its trademarked name for a fee and extend limited use of the name to other parties. For example, a company might want to use the band's name on t-shirts to sell at a concert venue. If the band name is protected by a registered trademark, the band must agree to license it before others can use it. Registering the trademark gives the band a basis to enforce its exclusive rights to the name.

Relaxed man smiling while strumming acoustic guitar at desk

Here's how to go about trademarking your band's name:

1. Know what you want to register.

Decide whether the trademark you want will pertain to text—the actual name—or to an identifying font or graphics, such as the band's logo.

2. Decide who will own the trademark.

In a typical scenario, band members share in the ownership of the trademark. If each member will be a trademark owner and the band has not incorporated or created some other form of business entity (for example, a limited liability company or partnership) to own the mark, you may file as joint individual applicants. Should the owners of the mark change later on, you must submit documentation to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Assignment Recordation Branch.

3. Decide what you wish to protect.

Filing a fee to register the trademark will protect the name in one of several classes, such as music recordings, live shows, merchandise, and printed collateral, such as souvenirs and posters. If you want to cover multiple classes, you will need to pay additional fees for each. All of the above-listed classes are valuable assets to your band, so be sure to consider each when you file.

4. Perform a search.

Be sure nobody else has already filed for use of the name. You can run an online search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database to make sure that the trademark for your band's name is not already the subject of an existing or pending registration. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website to use its Trademark Electronic System (TESS). Expand your search, ensuring there is nothing registered that is similar to your desired name, with spelling variations. Look for graphics in your search, if applicable. If your name does not appear in the database, it is yours to register as a trademark.

5. Complete the application.

Retrieve the form for the initial trademark application in print or submit it electronically with the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). Online submissions offer online verification, 24/7 availability, and the lowest available filing fees. Filing electronically enables you to pay fees with a credit or debit card.

6. Submit your filing fee.

Fees vary depending on which application you use: a regular TEAS application, a TEAS Plus (electronic filing) application, or a TEAS Reduced Fee application (electronic filing for which applicants write their own goods and services description). The Plus form is the least expensive route, but it also imposes the most stringent filing requirements.

7. Check the status.

In three months, check the status of your application using the serial number provided to you. You will wait several more months (usually just over a year total) before the certificate of U.S. Trademark Registration is issued. If your application is successful, your band name will have legal protection throughout the United States, retroactive to the initial filing date. Successful registration enables a band to stop infringement and issue take-down notices to others who might appropriate the name, for example, on social media sites.

8. Keep your trademark alive.

Between the fifth and sixth anniversary of your trademark's registration date, renew it online through the Section 8 "Declaration of Use" statement. Submit the fee as indicated, and proof of your trademark in action (typically, a screenshot or other image file showing trademark use in the five years since initial registration).

In nine more years, between your registration's ninth and 10th anniversary, fill out Section 8 again, plus the Section 9 "Application for Renewal." The USPTO provides instructions and a combined Sections 8 and 9 form. You'll have to pay a fee as indicated at this point too, and every 10th year onward.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.