Trademark a Band Name: What’s in a Rock Band’s Name?

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Trademark law may not be very “Rock and Roll”, but it sure is important these days. When it comes to rock and roll bands, trademarking the band name is an essential part of legal protection.

Today, a common misunderstanding is the idea that one can actually “copyright” a band name. While it is possible to copyright the design of a band logo, the band name itself is not copyrightable. Band names are protectable under trademark law, because like brand names they allow us to distinguish one band’s music and identity from another. They are what enable us to distinguish between a “Beatles” record on the one hand, and a “Chipmunks” record on the other.

A trademark is a word, symbol or device that distinguishes one set of goods from another. Meanwhile, band names are considered “service marks” because they help distinguish between providers of entertainment services. If they are used in interstate commerce, trademarks and service marks can be registered with the U.S. Office of Patents and Trademarks. Besides obtaining registration of a service mark, a band may also register its name as a trademark if it is associated with specific merchandise, such as record albums.

Craig Newby, partner at McDonald Carano Wilson LLC in Nevada, recently sat down with IPWatchdog to discuss the importance of trademarking a rock band’s name. Newby is a skilled litigator and business counselor with particular experience in handling the requirements of complex commercial litigation, including cost-effective discovery and fact investigation, strategic motion practice, settlement from strength, and trial.

“Similar to anyone wanting to establish a mark, a rock band needs to protect its name as soon as it is actually used,” he explained. “All else equal, a band should seek a name that is inherently distinctive, such that it qualifies for a high degree of trademark protection.”

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by Amanda Ciccatelli

IPWatchdog (September 10, 2017)

About McDonald Carano

McDonald Carano has helped to shape the Nevada business and legal landscape for 70 years. With more than 60 lawyers and government affairs professionals in our offices in Las Vegas and Reno, we are Nevada's law firm for business. We proudly represent Fortune 500 companies, financial and governmental institutions, fast-growth and mid-market companies, entrepreneurs, start-up ventures, non-profit organizations and individuals. Our attorneys deliver cross-discipline, one-stop, commercial law and government affairs counsel. Our dedication to clients, innovative thinking and practical solutions based in sound business and legal judgments are at the heart of our practice. For more information, visit, call 775.788.2000 (Reno office), or 702.873.4100 (Las Vegas office) or reach us by email at

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