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Don’t let your musical (or business) ambitions start off on a low note

So, you’ve put together a band and are ready to hit the big time. Approaching the first rush of success is exciting. There’s no rule book and you’re learning as you go. After all, it’s all about the music, right?

Hold on and put down the bass, there’s a few things you might want to think about now, to save all sorts of future trouble. At the forefront is the band name.

In most cases, the band name is going to be the first thing people hear about your band and a great name can have huge impact. But, like so many things tied up in marketing and branding, laws exist.

Trade mark law

Under trade mark law, using a band name that has already been claimed by another band or musical group, may very well amount to trade mark infringement. And it doesn’t matter how big or small your band may be. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that your band name is original, and not being used in any countries that your band might tour or sell music and merchandise into. This is because trade marking applies on a country-by-country basis.

Australian examples of band name changes

There’s no shortage of examples of Australia bands having to change their name. Melbourne band, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (formerly just Rolling Blackouts), lengthened their name after it became clear that a pre-existing American band were going to cause legal problems for them, when Rolling Blackouts started promoting their US tour. Likewise, The Temper Trap were formerly Temper Temper before they were contacted by a British band, of the same name.

Jurisdictional considerations

Further complications arise when bands operate in different jurisdictions. American band, The Raconteurs, pre-empted their Australian tour by contacting the unsigned Queensland jazz band, who’s name they shared, and offering to pay them out of the name. The Australian band dug in their heels and asked for more money, so the Raconteurs changed their name in Australia only, becoming the Saboteurs here and remaining the Raconteurs everywhere else. This might seem an acceptable solution, until you consider that the Australian band now need to create and sanction two different sets of album covers, press shots, t-shirts and press releases, not to mention the confusion it creates for curious potential fans.

Not only band names

Of course, this doesn’t just occur with existing band names. Brisbane band, Cub Sport, had already experienced success as Cub Scouts, before the actual Australian Scouting organisation began pursuing them for misrepresentation of the Cub Scout brand. The Cub Scouts band navigated away from the dispute, opting to change its name to Cub Sport. This was a somewhat surprising move, as it’s doubtful that the musical endeavours of Cub Scouts would cross over with activities of the Scouting organisation.

Trade mark searches are a must

In all of the above cases, confusion could have been avoided with a little understanding and awareness of trade mark law. Trade mark searches from the outset can highlight a potential band name that is protected, via a registered trade mark. As the above examples suggest, it pays to be thorough. Whether a partial or perceived representation of a pre-existing trade mark represents an infringement is ultimately determined by the courts, which is potentially where you could end up if a trade mark owner wishes to enforce their trade mark.

Final word

After all, imagine having built up all that goodwill and familiarity, only to have to confuse things by rebranding? Or, having your first overseas tour or release overshadowed by a messy legal dispute? Exercising a little foresight can go a long way.

If you would like to discuss your trade marking or trade mark search requirements, then you can book a free 20-minute phone consultation here.

You can also download our free eBook on trade marks here.