Choosing a Band Name

Picking A Band Name

By Bruce Colfin

(C) 2011 Bruce Colfin Law, PC

I can’t presume to tell someone how to pick a band name or the name under which they will be conducting business. In the music and entertainment businesses creative people pick names because they have meaning to them. It can be karmic or it can be a merely a “simple” business decision. In any event, whether it is a performing artist’s stage name, a band name, or an entertainment company, the name that is chosen connects a product or a service in the minds eye of the fan, concert goer or consumer to its origin. That chosen name becomes a valuable asset to its owners. It needs to be nurtured, promoted, publicized, exposed and protected

The process of protecting a chosen band name, or tradename begins by doing a little research online well before there is an investment of anything more than time. The first protection is choosing a name wisely. The electronic application to register a trademark (or servicemark if a performer) can be much easier than the process of choosing the right name.

Do some google type searches. Go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website at and do a trademark search. You might be lucky. The name chosen might be so unique that there just isn’t anything like it. But you can’t stop there. Any name search has to be thorough. Different spellings don’t count if it sounds the same or even nearly so.

What happens if as a result of a search you find a name that is similar but not exactly the same. The question that must be then asked is: Will that name be “likely to cause confusion” with any of the names found in a search which are used for similar or related purposes? You can’t answer that question from your own hopeful point of view. You can’t make an excuse and explain the similarity away. Doing that can lead to problems and legal trouble. For precautionary reasons the similarity is better viewed from the point of view of the party that has been using the name first, whether or not they have actually registered the name first.

If that similar name is already registered or an application for registration is in the Trademark office system, the Trademark office may refuse to register your name when an application is filed. They may deem it confusingly similar. At worst, the other prior users may take offense and seek to stop your use. It is possible they may sue for trademark infringement. All of these bad things could come after an investment of time and money in promoting and publicizing the name.

Maybe the other user is wrong in trying to stop you. Maybe there truly is no likelihood of confusion. Then again, maybe they are right. Finding out that answer may require a few years of extremely expensive litigation in a federal district court somewhere. It is not a pleasant experience when your focus should be in building your brand and not defending an unwise decision in the first place.

Ultimately, even if your search comes back clear you should bring the results to a professional to discuss before you choose to move forward with an investment of more time and money in promoting the name you’ve chosen.

For More Information Contact Bruce Colfin has been practicing entertainment, copyright and trademark law since 1982 and is a founder of THE FIRM ®

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