Bands are Brands

Posted by | January 17, 2011 | General | No Comments

This past holiday weekend, I went to North Tahoe’s best music venue, the Crystal Bay Club — or, as we like to call it, CBC — to watch Bay Area rock mavens Tea Leaf Green perform.

The band rocked!!  (Thanks, guys!)!  This, of course, got me thinking about bands as brands.

It helps to think about a band from a classic consumer perspective.  Bands produce (and fans consume) live performances, recorded music, and often videos and promotional items like t-shirts and decals.  Some artists have taken brand expansion to a whole new level, like Jimmy Buffett, whose brands include restaurant services and prepared cocktails, and Green Day who expanded their brand from punk/rock & roll music to Broadway musicals.  I even wrote about Ozzy Ozzbrand in a previous post.  Fans aren’t the only consumers bands need to think about; concert promoters also play a vital role in the distribution of music to the fans/consumers.  The thing to remember is that fans and promoters alike rely on bands’ brands (band name, nicknames, logos, etc.) when making their purchasing decisions.

So, why is it important to protect a band’s (or any other businesses) brands?

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Trademark protection (through Federal Registration) can be used to determine ownership:

Amongst band members — if a band member leaves, or the band disbands, and

In relation to third parties — authorized use is called licensing; unauthorized use is called infringement.

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Sublime & Black Sabbath are two bands that resolved internal trademark suits in recent years.  Taylor Swift had a well publicized October victory over several infringers selling counterfeit TAYLOR SWIFT merchandise.  Nationwide, I surmise, bands find themselves in trademark disputes every day.  Since it takes an average of 12 months to obtain federal trademark registration in the US, and given the benefits thereof, bands — like all businesses — are wise to seek trademark protection for their brands well before they think they “need it.”

BrandGeek Takeaway: What do members of a rock & roll band, the manager of a local food co-op, & the receptionist at a dentist’s office all have in common?  Their livelihood depends on the success of their companies’ brands (just like every other business (& non-profit)).  Brand protection strategies should be built into the organization’s business or marketing plan and should take into account current marketplace realities and projected growth, as well as potential problems.

About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

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