Rock bands register trademarks just like any other US business or enterprise. It’s true that many bands, rappers, and musicians don’t consider the possibility of registering their name as a trademark until they are well into their performing and recording career. However, it’s even more true that they should.
Registering your rock band’s name and logo as a US trademark provides a number of important brand protection benefits, not least of which is ensuring that no other rock band in the US is able to use that same name or logo. It ensures that, if another rock band or musician does use your name after you have already begun to do so, you have the right to sue that other band in Federal Court for infringement.
Trademark registration, however, requires, among other things, that the name or logo be used “in commerce” in the United States.
That is, your rock band must be using the name or logo in connection with the provision of specific services or goods with commercial purpose across state lines, one way or another.
If your band is simply playing for fun in your garage and never records anything, never performs publicly, and never sells any merchandise, it is unlikely that the band’s name or logo is eligible for US trademark registration.
On the other hand, if you as a solo performer or your band is engaged in any of these pursuits—your name and logo can be protected with trademark registration.
And should be.
International Classes and the Services and Goods of Rock Bands, Rappers, and Musicians
When a trademark registration application is filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the applicant, whether a rock band or anybody else, must specific exactly what goods or services the band name or logo is associated with in use.
It is possible for the same business or rock band name to be registered by two (or more) different applicants if the products or services offered are so wildly different that there will be no likelihood of consumers confusing who is selling what.
Thus, if your rock band is named, for example, “Bashmacker,” the fact that a company named Bashmacker has already registered the name in relation to the sale of computer microprocessors will likely not prevent your band from registering the name for its own non-computer-related services and products.
For administrative convenience, the trademark registration process in the US and in other countries utilizes a categorization system for the different types of goods or services that trademark registration applicants may conceivably trade in.
These categories are called International Classes (ICs). There are 45 such International Classes. ICs 1-34 account for goods or products of various sorts, while ICs 35-45 account for services.
A trademark registration application may be filed for 1 or more ICs, so long as the rock band or other applicant is actually using the name or logo in relation to those goods or services.
The USPTO filing-fee is charged, in fact, based on the number of International Classes filed in. The more ICs you file your application in, the more you’ll pay to file it.
That all said, rock bands, rappers, and musicians, although technically able to file trademark registration applications for any type of product or service you can think of, tend to file within 3 or 4 International Classes, generally.
The International Classes Used By Rock Bands, Rappers, & Musicians
You only have to sit back and consider what it is that rock bands do to earn money to arrive at the International Classes mostly commonly used by bands and musicians and other performers.
Rock bands primarily—
- Write and record music
- Perform concerts
- Sell t-shirts and stickers and other merchandise
Thus, the International Classes used by rock bands will be those that implicate these sorts of activities on a commercial level.
IC 9: Musical Recordings
The sale of goods consisting of musical recordings falls into International Class 9, which is entitled “Computers and Scientific Devices.”
Thus, it is not obvious that musical sound recordings would fall into IC 9 from a layman’s perusal of the names of the various International Classes (this is often the case). Nevertheless, they do.
Recorded and media content, along with actual “scientific devices,” do fall into IC 9.
For example, Detroit’s most famous son Iggy Pop has registered the name Iggy and the Stooges (the name of Pop’s original band as used in the Raw Power era of its lifespan, for those not in the know) in IC 9 with the following description:
Sound recordings, video recordings, downloadable Webcasts, [ downloadable podcasts, ] downloadable sound recordings, and downloadable video recordings, all featuring music [; downloadable ring tones via the Internet and wireless devices ].
Thus, you see that IC 9 covers not only “sound recordings” (albums, CDs, and other fixed media) but also downloadable recorded content. Even ring-tones.
In further example, the much worse rock band Def Leppard has registered its name as a US trademark in IC 9 with the following description:
Musical sound recordings; pre-recorded phonograph records, compact discs, audio cassettes, videotapes, and DVDs, all featuring music.
Videotapes and DVDs are included in Def Leppard’s description, in addition to actual albums.
IC 41: Live Musical Performances
The concert and live musical performance services provided by rock bands and other musicians fall into International Class 41, entitled “Education and Entertainment Services,” somewhat more logically.
IC 41 covers not only live stage performance but also other “entertainment services” provided over the internet or via a website or other social media platform.
For example, again, Def Leppard also registered its name (and logo) in IC 41 with the following description:
Entertainment services in the nature of live musical performances; and entertainment services, namely providing prerecorded music, information in the field of music, licensed merchandise, and commentary and articles about music, all online via the internet.
This is a broad description of the entertainment services that rock bands can be described as providing via the internet.
In contrast, again look at the IC 41 registration description for the Iggy and the Stooges trademark:
Providing a Web site on a global computer network featuring information on music and entertainment; [ entertainment services, namely, live entertainment comprising musical performances, dramatic performances and comedic performances by an actor, actors, or a musical performer or group; ] recording services for others in the fields of music, video, television and film; entertainment services, namely, providing musical sound and video recordings by means of a global computer network; providing information about entertainment services performed by an actor, actors or musical performer or group; entertainment information, namely, providing music, television and film information via a Web site; providing a Web site featuring musical performances, musical videos, photographs and other multimedia materials featuring music, video, television or film, and personal information regarding an actor, actors or musical performer or group and their live and recorded performances; providing a Web site featuring musical performances, musical videos, photographs and other multimedia materials featuring music, and personal information regarding an actor, actors or musical performer or group and their live and recorded performances; entertainment services, namely, providing non-downloadable prerecorded musical sound and video recordings delivered to communications devices via a global computer network and wireless networks; fan club services.
This lengthier description is obviously far more detailed and comprehensive and largely focuses on internet-based entertainment services rather than live performance services.
Why is this?
Well, as any Iggy or Stooges fan knows, with the sad passing of Ron and Scott Asheton, the Stooges, as a band, primarily exist in electronic form at this point in time. Only Iggy himself, along with guitarist James Williamson, survive.
Thus, there is (alas) no need for the inclusion of “live musical performance” in this IC 41 description as there will be no more. The trademark is not “in use” with regard to that particular service.
Unlike copyright or patent registration, a person, or rock band, is only entitled to the exclusive use of a trademark of it is, in fact, being used.
Merch: ICs 16 and 25
Any working rock band or musician south of the Rolling Stones in income will tell you that a large percentage (if not the largest percentage) of a band’s earnings comes from merchandise sold at live shows.
We’ve all got 1 or 2 or … 97 rock band tour t-shirts hanging in our closets, don’t we?
Rock bands sell shirts, stickers, hats, buttons, posters, tour books, “autographed” photos, and more at little tables manned by gloomy roadies or concert venue personnel (and sometimes by an actual musician or two, always fun!).
Depending on what sorts of “merch” are being sold by your rock band at your own little table, your trademark registration application may be filed in relation to 1 or 2 or even more different International Classes.
- IC 25: Wearing Apparel
International Class 25 covers wearing apparel, generally. This will be the IC used if you are imprinting your rock band’s name or logo on t-shirts, jackets, hats, thongs, or whatnot. (This author may or may not have, long ago, actually purchased a Spinal Tap thong for an ex.)
Def Leppard registered its name and logo in IC 25 with the following description:
Clothing, namely, t-shirts, sweatshirts, [ sweatpants, jackets, ] long sleeve t-shirts, baby doll shirts and tank tops
Fairly straightforward, right? They sell those types of clothing with the name DEF LEPPARD or the DEF LEPPARD logo printed on it. They do not sell, however, babies’ onesies with the DEF LEPPARD logo, so onesies are not listed. Again: use is the preeminent consideration.
The IGGY AND THE STOOGES trademark, on the other hand, was similarly filed in IC 25 with the following description:
Clothing, namely, tops, bottoms, headwear, [ jumpers, sweaters, ] pullovers, [ singlets, wristbands, jerseys, overalls, jumpers, dresses, ] [ vests, ] jackets, [ sweat bands, ] [ bandanas, ] [ hosiery, ] footwear [, underwear, ] [ and socks ].
You can, apparently, purchase an Iggy and the Stooges vest to wear with your Iggy and the Stooges underwear.
Good to know.
- IC 16: Paper Goods
Your rock band’s posters, tour books, photographs, post cards, even signed and numbered prints of your lead singer’s terrible watercolor paintings would all fall into International Class 16, “Paper Goods.”
Iggy Pop registered his IGGY AND THE STOOGES trademark under IC 16 with this description:
Printed matter, paper and stationery products, namely, posters.
Quite in contrast to the description provided by Iggy for IC 41, right? Pretty much just posters. No Iggy and the Stooges calendars, origami kits, or scrapbooking materials.
Def Leppard, meanwhile, registered its rock band name and logo under IC 16 as follows:
Posters, tour books, [ calendars, ] song books, [ decals, stickers, ] sheet music, unmounted photographs, printed music books [, and postcards ].
Def Lep is thinking a little bigger than Iggy here. Who wouldn’t want an unmounted photograph of Joe Elliott?
The bottom line with regard to merchandise, however, is that the sky is the limit. We’ve all seen some … interesting things on merch tables. Depending on what it is and how much moolah the sale of the merch rakes in for your rock band, you may consider registering your band’s trademark for even other International Classes.
Rock Bands’ International Classes for Trademark Registration: The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that there is no set International Class that your rock band must register its trademark with–and also no limit on what it can register with.
The only constraint is the extent of your actual use of your band name or logo in association with the good or service included in a given Class—and your budget with regard to USPTO filing fees.
If you are considering filing a trademark registration for your band’s or your performance name and/or logo, contact us to schedule your initial conversation.
Noble Path Trademark Law is a boutique US law practice located in Metro Detroit and assisting entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, artists, musicians, start-ups, and larger enterprises with robust intellectual property portfolios, and others in all industries with trademark registration, trademark renewal, trademark monitoring, and Office Action refusal response matters.
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