In the preceding post in this series, I mentioned some reasons why it’s a good idea to hire an attorney with experience in trademark law to handle the application to register your band name. There are other reasons why hiring an attorney for this process is a good idea, though. For instance, your attorney will have the experience to know whether existing trademarks covering peripheral “merch” goods categories are problematic.
What do I mean by that? Well, when you put your band name/trademark on goods like clothing, you are wading into an industry not directly related to music or entertainment. The apparel industry has its own brands and, unless you’re Gwen Stefani, as a musician you may be unaware of another identical or highly similar brand name in that industry.
Music and fashion tend to track similar trends, attitudes and tastes, however. Both emphasize youth, rebellion and counterculture style. This makes it understandable that similar or identical names might arise in both the music and fashion industries. So, as an example, it would’t be surprising for a band named “RAGE OF ANGELS” to bump into an existing clothing brand also called “RAGE OF ANGELS.”
Is this a problem? Well, if the brands are identical as in the above example, and if you hope to use and register your band name for clothing, the answer is almost certainly yes. That’s a relatively easy call for anyone to make. But what if the names are not identical but merely similar to a greater or lesser extent? Now it becomes a judgment call. And this is by far the more common occurrence, by the way.
This is no small issue. Many bands rely heavily on the money they make from sales of “merch” goods, and tee shirts and other clothing items form a dominant part of those sales. All the more reason to have an experienced attorney search the name for these goods at the outset, in order to avoid these problems.
An attorney with experience in trademark law is better equipped to make that judgment call. It probably would be more than worth the cost of a bit of attorney’s time to avoid wasting $275 – $325 in filing fees (for a clothing category), not to mention whatever problems and costs may come with a challenge or opposition by the clothing brand.
You want to focus on rockin’ the joint up, not on cease and desist letters from fashionistas. Save yourself the headaches and work with an attorney who knows how to spot a potential issue in this arena and can help you avoid problems.