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Taylor Swift™ Has the Media Singing the (trademark) Blues

Taylor SwiftTM

Taylor Swift is a 25 year old seven-time GRAMMY Award winner. She was the youngest songwriter ever hired by the Sony/ATV Music publishing house (at age 14) and was the youngest recipient ever to receive music industry’s highest honor, the GRAMMY Award for Album of the Year (in 2011). Taylor Swift’s website has a news page that is full of the awards & accolades she’s received, but glaringly absent is any mention of the recent  press attacks on her Style for seeking to protect several lyrics from her latest album, 1989. Apparently, she’s learned to

Shake it Off when it comes to the “haters [who] are gonna hate.” If you believe the old adage that “any press is good press,” then Taylor Swift had a fabulous week last week. Her October, 2014 trademark filings for:

 Party like it’s 1989™ (16 applications)
This sick beat™ (16 applications)
Cause we never go out of style™ (3 applications)
Could show you incredible things™ (3 applications)
Nice to meet you. Where you been?™ (3 applications)

were covered by: Rolling StoneBusiness Insider;  Time; Entrepreneur; The Guardian; CNN; BuzzFeed; NY DailyNews & YourEDM (yes, that’s an actual publication!).

While these were T.Swizzle’s first TM applications for song lyrics, they certainly are not THE first TM applications for song lyrics, as stated by The Guardian . . . in its HEADLINE! Who’s to Blame? Can you say Margaritaville? Well, to be honest, I am not sure if Jimmy Buffett was first either. He registered WHO’S TO BLAME for prepared cocktails in 2000 and MARGARITAVILLE in 1991 for clothing and nightclubs.   is one of the more prolific trademark filers, having applied to federally register 757(!) different trademarks, of which 347 remain LIVE. In total, Swift has 108 LIVE USPTO records for her pending and registered marks, of which 56 are for the name TAYLOR SWIFT or her initials, T.S.

So, how is this possible you — and much of the press, apparently — may wonder? I myself have written (here and here) about the general lack of IP protection (trademark or copyright) in song titles, or the title of any single work. What’s different here (as with Margaritaville) is that these phrases are being used (or will be used) brands. Trademark protection generally is limited to the specific goods and services on, or connection with, which a mark is used. This explains why Taylor Swift has 33 separate trademark registrations for the obvious . . .

Clothing

Entertainment Services

Musical sound recordings

Video recordings & downloads

Jewelry

Posters, stickers & sheet music

Online retail store

to the obscure . . .

Beach towel & bed linens

Christmas Stockings

Footwear

Toiletries

Although separate applications must be filed for separate marks (e.g., TAYLOR SWIFT, T.S., PARTY LIKE IT’S 1989), you don’t have to file separate applications for each different International Classification of goods or services. Doing so is a smart strategy for anyone that can afford to do so, not just for their attorneys’ (though clearly, T-Swizzle is making them lawyers sing!). Each registration is separately enforced and defended. Having separate applications for each Class of goods minimizes the potential collateral damage should someone challenge ownership in the mark in connection with one item or type of item. It also forces any challenger to narrowly tailor (no pun intended) their complaint to address each registration. Such a strategy also gives the trademark owner multiple arrows in their quiver, should defense of the mark(s) become necessary. Before today, I often used the term “NIKE level protection,” to exemplify a deeply comprehensive trademark protection strategy. Since Taylor Swift scored 3 more registrations for her name than Nike has for its, from now on I will refer to “T-Swizzle level protection.”  If nothing else, T-Swizzle rolls off the tongue more smoothly than Nike.

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