Taylor Swift™ Has the Media Singing the (trademark) Blues

Posted by | January 31, 2015 | General | 2 Comments
Taylor Swift TM

Taylor SwiftTM

Taylor Swift is a 25 year old seven-time GRAMMY Award winner. She was the youngest songwriter ever hired by the Sony/ATV Music publishing house (at age 14) and was the youngest recipient ever to receive music industry’s highest honor, the GRAMMY Award for Album of the Year (in 2011). Taylor Swift’s website has a news page that is full of the awards & accolades she’s received, but glaringly absent is any mention of the recent  press attacks on her Style for seeking to protect several lyrics from her latest album, 1989. Apparently, she’s learned to

Shake it Off when it comes to the “haters [who] are gonna hate.” If you believe the old adage that “any press is good press,” then Taylor Swift had a fabulous week last week. Her October, 2014 trademark filings for:

 Party like it’s 1989™ (16 applications)
This sick beat™ (16 applications)
Cause we never go out of style™ (3 applications)
Could show you incredible things™ (3 applications)
Nice to meet you. Where you been?™ (3 applications)

were covered by: Rolling StoneBusiness Insider;  Time; Entrepreneur; The Guardian; CNN; BuzzFeed; NY DailyNews & YourEDM (yes, that’s an actual publication!).

While these were T.Swizzle’s first TM applications for song lyrics, they certainly are not THE first TM applications for song lyrics, as stated by The Guardian . . . in its HEADLINE! Who’s to Blame? Can you say Margaritaville? Well, to be honest, I am not sure if Jimmy Buffett was first either. He registered WHO’S TO BLAME for prepared cocktails in 2000 and MARGARITAVILLE in 1991 for clothing and nightclubs.   is one of the more prolific trademark filers, having applied to federally register 757(!) different trademarks, of which 347 remain LIVE. In total, Swift has 108 LIVE USPTO records for her pending and registered marks, of which 56 are for the name TAYLOR SWIFT or her initials, T.S.

So, how is this possible you — and much of the press, apparently — may wonder? I myself have written (here and here) about the general lack of IP protection (trademark or copyright) in song titles, or the title of any single work. What’s different here (as with Margaritaville) is that these phrases are being used (or will be used) brands. Trademark protection generally is limited to the specific goods and services on, or connection with, which a mark is used. This explains why Taylor Swift has 33 separate trademark registrations for the obvious . . .

Clothing

Entertainment Services

Musical sound recordings

Video recordings & downloads

Jewelry

Posters, stickers & sheet music

Online retail store

to the obscure . . .

Beach towel & bed linens

Christmas Stockings

Footwear

Toiletries

Although separate applications must be filed for separate marks (e.g., TAYLOR SWIFT, T.S., PARTY LIKE IT’S 1989), you don’t have to file separate applications for each different International Classification of goods or services. Doing so is a smart strategy for anyone that can afford to do so, not just for their attorneys’ (though clearly, T-Swizzle is making them lawyers sing!). Each registration is separately enforced and defended. Having separate applications for each Class of goods minimizes the potential collateral damage should someone challenge ownership in the mark in connection with one item or type of item. It also forces any challenger to narrowly tailor (no pun intended) their complaint to address each registration. Such a strategy also gives the trademark owner multiple arrows in their quiver, should defense of the mark(s) become necessary. Before today, I often used the term “NIKE level protection,” to exemplify a deeply comprehensive trademark protection strategy. Since Taylor Swift scored 3 more registrations for her name than Nike has for its, from now on I will refer to “T-Swizzle level protection.”  If nothing else, T-Swizzle rolls off the tongue more smoothly than Nike.

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.

2 Comments

  • Rosalinda Sanquiche says:

    Was going to email you when I heard about this. Personally, I think she or her biz manager is brilliant. Btw, was on the site surfing for any info ref copyright and google, dropbox, etc. Cheers! RS

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