Meeting of the Minds

’Cause They Never Go Out of Style: Why Musicians Are Registering More Trademarks Than Ever

Erik M. Pelton and Elizabeth M. Dukette

©2016. Published in Landslide, Vol. 8, No. 3, January/February 2016, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

What do Taylor Swift, LL Cool J, Steve Miller, and Jennifer Lopez all have in common? Despite occupying different genres and decades of music, these music icons are all part of the recent trend in the music industry to apply to register trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Taylor Swift already owns over 50 registrations, and has submitted over 60 more applications to register a number of lyrics and phrases found on her album 1989, including THIS SICK BEAT1 and CAUSE WE NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE2 for use in connection with various types of clothing, accessories, and athletic wear. Similarly, James Todd Smith has more than a dozen pending applications to register his stage name LL COOL J for use in connection with live animal-riding performances and other entertainment services.3 Steve Miller, owner of the registration to the Steve Miller Band name, recently submitted eight more trademark applications including an application for the I’M A JOKER, I’M A SMOKER, I’M A MIDNIGHT TOKER lyric from the 1973 hit “The Joker,” along with an application to register the iconic winged horse image from the 1997 Book of Dreams album for use in connection with medicinal tobacco-free cigarettes and other smoking paraphernalia.4 Jennifer Lopez, who owns over 20 trademark registrations, recently applied to register a stylized logo of her “J-Lo” nickname (a “J” and “L” connected at the top with an overlapping “O”), for use in connection with over 10 classes of goods, including cosmetics and various home goods.5

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