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How to Register a Band Name in the USA

Updated on November 22, 2016

Cowgirl with Guitar

Musicians Protect Your Name

Creative musicians and people drawn to the arts, many times are so strong on that side of the creative process, that too often they neglect other aspects of their art, to their detriment.  To help ensure their overall success, steps should be taken to protect their name and their work. 

The myriad of activities rendered by performing artists and musicians, to form a band is big business. All members of the band must give priority and consent in the protection of their name, legally. The band members must come together to forge an alliance of thoughts, not only how to share the fruits of their labor, but how they will legally protect their name and have it registered it with the proper governmental authorities. 


Step 1

Whether you are a new band or an existing one, you have to determine first, if an existing band similar to your name is already using your bands’ name. You can do a quick internet search to help determine this.  In case no one is using it, you must decide if what you are presently using will be your final band name. If you have no definite band name yet, conduct a name-search meeting among yourselves and choose one. For facilitation purposes, it would be preferable if you could come up with your three top favorite chosen band names, in case your first choice is already in use, you have other options on hand. 

Step 2

Under the Common Law rights principle, if somebody is already performing and currently using the band name you have chosen, (though not yet registered), the existing band using that chosen name must have the rights over it. If both bands have been using it, and both are claiming rights over it, you must show proof that your band has been using it first to exercise the rights under the Common Law.  If no other band is using your chosen name, proceed to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) of your location to start the process of protecting your band name by getting it registered. 

Step 3

At the United States Patent and Trademark Office of your State, you can file an application directly, or you can hire a lawyer to assist you. It is noteworthy that copyright laws cannot protect your band name, but its registration as a service mark is similar to a trademark. Once registered with the USPTO, no one can use your name except you. You are the only rightful registrant all over the United States, except another band could claim that right invoking the Common Law right as previously discussed.  This is why it is critical to do as thorough of an investigation before registering, as possible. 

Step 4

After registering your band name at the USPTO in your own State, it would be best if you could do the same process on a state-by-state registration to protect your band service name against possible Common Law claimants. In case you are not yet ready to have that preferred name processed as your service name, you can have it reserved by filing an IFU “Intent to Use” registration with the USPTO. 

Artists should also seek to obtain copyrights on all their original work, be it songs written, recordings, labels, graphic design, and any other form of artwork. 

If you are projected to have some fairly significant success, it would be highly recommended to hire a lawyer to make sure all your bases are fully covered.  It would be unfortunate if the band (or artist) got famous, then discovered after the fact, that the name was previously taken and needed to be changed.  Another damaging incident would be if another band could capitalize on the success and hard work yours’ has done.  Artists must protect their work.

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