I know. We ALL love Taylor Swift. Whether you really love her or you love to hate her, the truth is what she does in media and music gets attention. And, I love when stuff like this happens.
My Twitter feed and phone blew up yesterday when the news story was released that Taylor had, as most of my friends wrote to me, “received a trademark on her lyrics.” Specifically, Party Like It’s 1989, This Sick Beat, and Nice To Meet You. Where You Been?
Well, not exactly. Taylor did complete the “blank space(s)” [See what I did there, Swifties?] in trademark applications for these trademarks, but she has yet to be granted the marks by the United States Trademark and Patent Office.
A trademark is not like a driver’s license where you fill out a few forms, wait in line and then you are granted a trademark. It is a long process. A tedious process and not one that happens over one night or even two months.
The applications were filed on or around November 3, 2014. Regardless of one’s fame, the USPTO does not get in a hurry. As it stands now the trademark applications are still waiting be assigned to an examining attorney with the USPTO. Once the examining attorney reviews it, the application continues thru 15 other steps. For more on the process, check out the United States Patent and Trademark Office site HERE.
The follow-up question I received from my creative friends – The Creative Caucus, as I like to call them – was, “Wait, I thought song lyrics fell under copyright law because they are creative.” Yes, absolutely correct. Copyright protects creative expression fixed in a tangible medium. As I discussed, in More Than a Shaker of Salt sometimes a great song lyric can be a trademark.
In that post, I explained how the phrase Margaritaville continues to earn more money for Jimmy Buffett as a trademark than it ever did as a song. While Margaritville was originally song lyrics, Jimmy found a way to make it profitable by linking it with merchandise, restaurants, hotels and even margarita makers. I imagine Taylor is hoping for this same type of success.
If she is granted a trademark application on those phrase it will mean she has the exclusive right to use products bearing those marks. It does not mean you will not be allowed to cover her songs. Or, that you cannot say “Party Like It’s 1989.” However, if you wanted to sell bean bag toys or Christmas ornaments with the phrase, you would be prohibited from doing so since that is where Taylor registered the phrase.
Taylor not only is a musician, but is also a brand. With the shrinking revenues artist now receive, it forces them to find other ways to earn money off of their songs and from their fans. By filing a trademark application, it appears Taylor is doing just that. Her music might go down in flames, but her filing a trademark for merchandise might be worth the pain.*** What do you think? Take part in the Comments section below and Stay Tuned In!
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*** I might be a closeted Swifty, but let’s keep that our secret. 😉