Once upon a time, a band picked a name they liked and started using it. They had t-shirts printed, business cards made, and ordered a banner for their stage and merchandise table. The band played shows for about a year, gaining a loyal following and doing quite well. Their website and social media were getting more likes and fans every day. The first EP was selling and songs were being written for their first CD. Then one day a letter arrived that looked very important. So, the band leader read it right away. “Oh my”, he said, “there’s another band using our name and their lawyer wants us to stop using the name!” “We can’t do that”, the other band members said, “we have already have spent too much money on merchandise with our name all over it.” So, what should the band do?
Unfortunately, this is not a fairy tale. I have worked with bands that have been in this situation.
Your band has taken quite a bit of time and creative thinking to come up with a memorable band name. Hopefully, you have also checked to make sure that name is available for use. Chapter Four of The Christian Band Handbook is called The Name Game—it will give you more information to choose and protect your band’s name.
If you do not have a great name or need to know how to check to see if it available to use, read this post on how to
A name that is available for use is critical. If you use a name that is already taken, it will not matter how much money you have spent on merchandise or even if you have the name tattooed on your arm—you will not be able to continue using it and can be taken to court and pay fines. So, please don’t skip the name availability check.
There is still one more super easy step you can take to protect your band’s name from someone else using it or demanding that you stop using it…
Keep a record of every time and every place that you use your band’s name.
When two businesses (in this case your band and someone else) are both using the same name eventually one or the other finds out. Usually the first party to discover the name use goes to their attorney and has them write a letter demanding that the other business stop using the name. But, the law does not decide who gets to use the name based on who writes the letter.
The most important factors in deciding who owns a band name are:
• Who used the name first
• What research was done to make sure the name was available before the band started using it
• How often the name has been used since
• Where (in our case, how many states as well as online) the name has been used
The way to prove all these things is to keep a Band Name File.
This file should be a physical file, stored in a safe place so the contents will not be lost or damaged. Put the printed copies of the original band name search (which shows your band name was available to use when you first started using it) in the file. After that, every time you play a show, put a poster or ticket from the show in file. It can’t get much more than simple than that!
Now, if you get a letter from someone else’s lawyer demanding that you stop using their name, don’t panic. You can prove that you did due diligence when first choosing the name and that you have been continually using it since. Send copies of your proof to the lawyer and the other party will most likely stop using your name and drop the matter entirely. For the price of postage and a few photocopies you will have avoided attorney fees, court costs, and having to give up your band’s name!
If you find a band using your name, you do not have to hire an attorney. Simply write them a letter stating when you started using the name, generally outline how often and where you have been using it since, and ask them to stop using your name. Request a response within 30 days and that should be the end of it. Most likely, they will stop using your name. If the other band wants to argue about who gets to use the name, do your very best to avoid expensive legal action. Start by learning what an entertainment attorney does and then call the Attorney for the Arts FREE hotline. The information you need is in this post:
Still have questions about your band’s name?
Chapter Four: The Name Game.
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