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How do I legally protect my husband's professional (music) stage name?

Baltimore, MD |

Hi! My husband is about to release his first album and I want to protect his stage name as we are gospel artists and it does not look good to go to court against other gospel artists. There have been some steals already. Additionally does registering our record label with the state protect the business name as well?

Attorney Answers 5

  1. The best course of action for protection of his stage name is likely to federally register it as a trademark/service mark. He should consult with an entertainment attorney to advise him.

  2. If his stage name is different from his given name, then a "brand" may exist under that name. A trademark denotes the origin of goods and a servicemark denotes the origin of services. Performing as an entertainer is a service, and you would register that mark in the category for entertainment services. That registration can be as a state or federal servicemark, or both. Most lawyers will recommend the federal registration, as it will provide you with greater protection in the event of infringement.

    When you say there have been some steals, the issue is who used that name first. Unlike most of the other countries of the world, in the US rights to a service mark exist at the moment the mark is used to denote the origin of services, in interstate commerce, e.g. the performance of a show, which was advertised across state lines. If he was first, and can prove it, he owns the mark. If he can't prove it, well, that could be an issue.

    Forming a company, a record label, in the state does not protect the business name. It only prevents someone else from also forming a company in the state with the same name. Thats not enough protection.

    Happy to help you through this issue, if you'd like.

    This post does not create an attorney-client relationship between my firm and the asker. In all events, the asker is well advised to secure advice from an attorney with experience in the area covered by the question asked. This answer is posted for general purposes only.

  3. As my colleagues have indicated, in the U.S. first in time, is normally first in right. So, if your husband was the first to use the stage name and you together were the first to use the name of your record label, you likely have superior rights to use those names in your area.

    For broader protection, you should think about registering the names for federal trademark protection.

    If your husband is going to be booked and paid under his stage name, I would also suggest that you file a d/b/a for that name in the county in which you live. The form will likely ask when he started to use the name, so if you are worried about others who has "stolen" the name, you'll want to be sure to list the earliest date of use. Also, because the d/b/a form will be published in local papers, you would be well-served to meet with a trademark attorney before filing a d/b/a or other trademark application to make sure the efforts are properly coordinated.

    Good luck!

    Any answer or other information posted above is general in nature and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the posting attorney, and you are urged to engage a qualified attorney who is licensed to practice in the relevant jurisdiction.

  4. You have received excellent advice. But you should know that it is not easy to protect "stage names". Ordinarily, people are permitted to perform under their real names, but not necessarily their stage names. If others began using the same "stage name" that your husband wants to use before he began to use it, your husband could be blocked from using the name---particularly if they compete for the same audience. Trademark rights (including service marks belonging to entertainers) arise from use in commerce----what matters is who started using the name first. The senior user is entitled to block junior users from using the name if there is a likelihood of consumer confusion. I worry when you say there have already been some "steals". That may mean that your husband was not the first to use the stage name to release gospel records and, if so, he could find himself facing an expensive trademark suit. I have represented several musical artists over the years who have gotten themselves in trouble in this way---you need to retain intellectual property counsel to review the situation and advise you and your husband as to whether your husband can use this name without violating IP rights of others.

    Registering your record label with the state provides no intellectual property protection for the business name---it just means that no one else can register the same name with the state. It does not preclude others from operating under such name. You need to work with counsel to develop a branding strategy, and this probably will include filing applications for federal trademark protection.

  5. You the file for Trademark protection. It may not look good to take other artist to court, but as a gospel artist it looks even worst to be hauled into court forthe stealing.

    I am an attorney licensed to practice in Texas, Louisiana and before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and the above may not be an accurate assessment of the laws for your area. The above should be taken as general guidance and not specific legal advice. For specific legal advice you should seek a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction practicing in the area specific to your issue. The above does not constitute or establish an attorney client relationship. If you wish to receive specific advice about your legal issue, then contact my office to schedule a personal consultation.

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