Ever wonder why Common is no longer Common Sense? Or why Soulja Boy is now Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em? Well, the answer to both of those questions is, the failure to acquire a trademark.
Common Sense, after building a sizable fanbase and an impressive body of work, soon learned that a reggae band owned the name before he did. Soulja Boy was sued by a hip hop artist who also owned the name first and had to either change his name or modify it in a way that was legally acceptable. This is a terrible situation to be in after you have invested years into building your career. There have been cases where artists could not release completely recorded and packaged albums because they did not own their names. What happens is that you not only have to stop using the name, but you could be sued as well. In some cases, you can make the other party a monetary offer to release the name, but if you’re a bigger star, they’re likely to make you pay a hefty sum.
How do you acquire a trademark and how much does it cost? Well, I’m glad you asked that question. Filing a application costs about $325 and it can take a minimum of 6 months to get a confirmation. You can do a name search and file electronically online. There’s more detailed info on the website and they give you a walkthrough. www.uspto.gov/main trademarks.htm
Having an entertainment attorney do this for you can cost about $1000 because there can be a lot of paperwork involved. Also, entertainment attorneys have added resources that give them the ability to do a more thorough search of finding out if the name you’ve chosen is available.
Better to pay now than pay later. You should also try to pick a unique name. I meet a lot of hip hop artist that have given themselves common names or names of already trademarked comic book characters. This will guarantee you a future of legal trouble.
Check the trademark website and always consult with a attorney if you’re unsure about anything.
Web site: http://www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm
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