In the past few years I’ve become a fan of Taylor Swift. Perhaps not of her music, but the way she handles her career and her life. Standing up to Spotify and the paltry royalty rates it pays was just the latest example.
So yesterday I noticed new and mainstream media making a fuss about recent trademark applications Taylor Swift and her team have filed on logos she uses to promote and market her music career. The reports were full of misconceptions and misstatements about trademark law it was painful to me. Especially since trademark is a unique type of law that, in the United States, is primarily a consumer protection law. Significantly, trademark is not the same thing as copyright (e.g. Vulture article)!
What is a trademark anyway?
A trademark is a word, phrase or design, that indicates to a consumer the source of goods or services. You see trademarks all day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Think of them as shorthand for brands:
Cheerios is shorthand for cereal from General Mills
Crest is shorthand for tooth paste from General Mills
T.S. is shorthand for music and merchandise from Taylor Swift
The primary protection afforded trademarks is to prevent third parties from using the same or similar marks in a manner that would confuse consumers as to the source of the goods or services to which they were related. The same word can be used by different people on different products as long as there is not a likelihood the consumers can be confused. Thus different companies use Delta as mark for for transportation, faucets, and dental services.
So what does this have to do with Taylor Swift?
Yesterday, Vox reported that Taylor Swift had filed applications for the registration of a number of marks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The marks include THIS SICK BEAT and PARTY LIKE IT’S 1989. The applications are for uses on everything from live entertainment to stationary to aprons.
Vox correctly points out that the registrations will allow Taylor Swift’s team to keep third parties from selling unofficial merchandise. Recent studies indicate that musicians at all levels rely on revenue from everything but the sale of recorded music. Therefore being able to sell t-shirts to fans as well as candles and the like is important even for superstars like Taylor Swift.
I for one love the idea of SWIFTSTAKES from Taylor Swift. She is incredibly generous with her fans, and I know they will love them too. I’m grateful she’s such a great role model for my nieces and I can use this story to teach them about trademarks!
Please visit Prager Law to learn how we help clients on trademark matters as well as provide other strategic legal services.