If you want a trademark band name, you'll need to understand what trademarks are and how they work. Trademarks protect the "word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services," according to the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO).

Copyright, on the other hand, protects intellectual works like literature, art, music, etc. Musicians, then, would copyright songs and trademark their band name.

Trademarks are complicated, and mistakes expensive, so try to find a music attorney or use an online trademark registration service to take you through the steps.

How to Trademark a Band Name

1. Google your name to see if it's taken.

Most social media sites will show up in the search so you won't have to visit each one. If the name is used by less popular bands, or it's similar to something not related to music, try adding “band” or “music” to the tail of your search.

If the name is taken, you may be able to trademark it if it hasn't been already. The first band to register a name gets federal trademark protection for it, even if someone else is using it. Still, it may be locally trademarked by another band.

2. Decide who will own the trademark.

Band names are valuable, so it's important to decide who will own the trademark. Each member should have a share of the ownership.

Sometimes it's useful to make your band a business and give trademark ownership to the company.

3. Choose your class(es).

Trademarks only protect the name of something in its specific class. Your band will have to choose classes like live entertainment and recorded music.

4. Choose the form your trademarked name will take.

Trademarks can protect a name in its standard form, simply the name itself. Or, they can protect a stylized version of the name if it's written in a certain font or with special characters. Decide which is best for your band.

5. Register Your Trademark.

You can register the trademark online through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).

As of 2015, the fee for filing a regular application is $325. A TEAS Reduced Fee application is $275, and a TEAS Plus application is $225. You can pay online via debit or credit card, or by mailing a cashier's check or money order to the USPTO.

Check the status of your application three months after you've filed. You'll receive a serial number once you've filed an application that you can use to check the status. The process of official registration can take longer than a year.

Turn Your Band into a Business

A general partnership is a good business structure for bands, and a sole partnership is good for solo musicians. However, a partnership means that members are personally liable for damages in legal cases.

Corporations are seen as individual entities and can take on liability for the band in legal trouble, but they are more expensive to build and sustain.

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is usually the best option for musicians because:

  • Members won't be personally liable in disputes.
  • It has the simple structure of a partnership and the benefits of a corporation.
  • Band members can come and go without affecting the system.
  • Any expenses can be written off as business expenses.
  • Setting one up is quick, easy, and inexpensive.

Choosing a Name

Band names are considered “service marks,” or terms that differentiate a service provider from their competitors. Bands are providers of entertainment services.

Many people believe that copyrights apply to band names. Although you can copyright a band logo, you can't copyright the name itself. Band names can only be trademarked because they provide a distinction between different bands.

You should try to go for a unique name that can be securely trademarked. The more unique a band name is, the more protection it can receive. Also, the more it can stand out amongst every other band. You should also make sure usernames that match your trademarked name are available on multiple social media sites.

As a musician, you want to try and be consistent and reliable. You should be strong enough that anyone out to get you can't destroy or dilute your career. Your fans shouldn't be confused when they look for you and your music. Your name should reflect and enforce all of that.

If you need help to trademark your band name, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.