Knowing how to trademark music requires understanding a little bit about intellectual property protections. While you could trademark the name of your band, protecting your music requires applying for a copyright, a type of intellectual property protection used for artistic expression.

IP Protections: Copyrights and Patents

A copyright is a type of intellectual property protection that provides rights to works created in a tangible medium. Copyrights can be used for almost every type of artistic expression:

  • Works of art, such as paintings and sculptures.
  • Almost every type of image, including drawings, graphic designs, and photographs.
  • Musical compositions, including songs and other types of recordings.
  • Books and other written documents.
  • Movies, television shows, plays, and other live performances.

Trademarks protect anything used to brand a good or service. Commonly, you can trademark logos, phrases, words, and symbols.

In some cases, you may want to obtain both trademark and copyright protections. For example, if a business develops a new slogan that will appear on their products and in advertising, both types of IP protection may be necessary. Anything used in advertising, such as graphics and text, will have protection under a copyright, and a trademark will protect the slogan itself.

Copyrights cannot protect trade names or slogans. If you want rights to one of these items, you will need a trademark.

If you want to protect an image, the form of IP protection you should apply for will depend on how you plan to use the image. For instance, if you only want to use the image for a brief ad campaign, then a copyright is probably the best option. On the other hand, if you're going to use the image to consistently identify your business's goods or services, you should apply for a trademark.

Trademarks and copyrights have significantly different registration processes. For example, when applying for a copyright, your registration approval should happen relatively quickly, and your filing fee will be inexpensive. Also, your application will not be subject to a lengthy examination and will only be checked for the required information. Filing for a trademark, on the other hand, is much more expensive, and approval can take a significant amount of time. Your application will also be extensively reviewed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Another difference between copyrights and trademarks is that licensing and royalties can be compulsory with copyrights. Infringement cases are also very different for each type of IP protection.

Protecting Your Music

The music industry now relies heavily on the internet, particularly in terms of marketing new artists and songs. While the internet has been very beneficial for musicians, it is not without its pitfalls. For example, because music can be easily spread online, musicians are now much more at risk for copyright infringement.

While almost every musician will say that they take their art seriously, few have considered the legal aspects of working in the music industry. Fortunately, by following a few simple tips, artists can protect both their brand and their music. One of the first things that every artist should do is to trademark either their stage name or the name of their band. If you fail to file a trademark, you may find yourself in a legal dispute with another artist over ownership of your stage name.

If you want to trademark your band or stage name, you should visit the USPTO website to see if your trade name is available for registration. In addition to searching for registered trademarks and pending registrations, you can fill out and file an application to trademark your name.

Whether you're an established artist or are just starting your career, you should make sure to copyright your music. Don't make the mistake of assuming that just because you've recorded your music that you own the rights to your songs. For instance, if you submit a track to a label in the hopes of getting signed and it isn't protected by copyright, the company could take your music and use it for themselves. In that case, you would have no legal recourse.

There are two ways you can be certain that you own your music. First, you can apply for a copyright for the composition of a song. Second, you can copyright the recording of the song.

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