What are the odds that the signature on the cover of Taylor Swift’s self-titled debut album from 2006 depicts her actual and personal signature (she would have been 17 at the time)?

Or, could it be that the highly marketed and consistent trademark signature is more about the branding and packaging of the artist and not actually her own handwriting or penmanship?

If the above signature is not actually penned by Taylor Swift what would that say about her brand, if anything? Would it make her brand any less authentic? Or does a vocal artist get a pass on handwriting, penmanship, and personal signatures, especially at the age of 17, and even thereafter, since it doesn’t affect the authenticity of the voice (remember Milli Vanilli?) (Classic YouTube video here).

Do you suppose TS fans have an expectation that the Taylor Swift signature trademark represents her actual, personal signature? If so, would their decision to purchase goods be affected if the signature was actually penned by another? Probably not, but if so, would that subject the trademark registration to cancellation on deceptiveness grounds? Or, on the other hand, do fans assume and expect the trademark signature to be part of the artist’s professional handling, more like they would view assistance from a make-up artist, hair stylist, and/or airbrushing expert?

Now, given all that, as a trademark type, how would you answer the apparently frequent question: "How can I get a Taylor Swift Autograph"?

As we learned with the recent criticism involving Sarah and Bristol Palin’s attorney (who failed to obtain the necessary written consents at the time of application), perhaps, the best bet might be to scour the USPTO database for Ms. Swift’s personal written consent to federally register the Taylor Swift name as a trademark, as TMEP 1206.04(a) reads:

Must Be Personally Signed. When a name, portrait, or signature in a mark identifies a particular living individual . . . the mark can be registered only with the written consent of the individual . . . . The consent must be a written consent to the registration of the identifying matter as a mark, and must be personally signed by the individual whose name or likeness appears in the mark.

Just don’t be surprised if it looks nothing like the signature appearing on her album/CD covers:

The highly marketed and consistently branded trademark signature is on the left and Ms. Swift’s personal signature, as submitted to the U.S. Trademark Office, on January 8, 2008, is on the right.

Linked here are some additional written consents with Taylor Swift’s personal signature as of May 11, 2009, October 5, 2010, and December 15, 2010. Not exactly a model of brand consistency. 

More to the point of consistency, or the lack thereof, our challenge to handwriting experts is below the jump, showing a collage of photos for sale on eBay, each claiming to be signed by "the" Taylor Swift:

  

  

 

  

  

If the signatures are authentic, it appears Ms. Swift has as many signatures as outfits.

Coming full circle, perhaps this best explains the need for the consistently branded Taylor Swift signature trademark.

  • Steve,
    Personally, I believe that authenticity lives in the experience. In the case of Milli Vanilli, the experience was a facade and therefore inauthentic.
    Generally speaking, when I think of a singer or a band, I don’t expect to see a CD with a hand-signed cover. If Taylor was a visual artist, than there would surely be an issue here, but as she is a recording artist, it doesn’t detract from my experience.
    The Taylor Swift experience is brought to life on stage. The typeface displayed on the cover of her debut album is merely a graphic representation of that experience. Interestingly enough, on Disney’s website, they offer it up as the “Taylor Swift Official Font” which they call Satisfaction: http://disneychannelneeds.blogspot.com/2009/06/taylor-swift-official-font.html Now, that might be a bit deceiving!
    On a quick iTunes search, it appears that Taylor Swift is at least somewhat consistent in using this same type treatment on her covers. If we think of a “signature” as a distinctive mark, then yes, Taylor Swift definitely needs to work on making her actual signature consistent!
    Great post!
    Laura Savard
    Brand Expressionist®
    Blackcoffee®

  • Great post, Steve. For additional interesting celebrity signature trademark news, see the Office Action response filed 12/15/2010 in Application S.N. 85012943 (THE OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK) which contains Oprah’s consent – provided on a different mark (OPRAH) and signed on October 12, 2001. I have no idea how that was accepted by the USPTO! See page 3 of the response here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/50361122

  • Great post, Steve. For additional interesting celebrity signature trademark news, see the Office Action response filed 12/15/2010 in Application S.N. 85012943 (THE OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK) which contains Oprah’s consent – provided on a different mark (OPRAH) and signed on October 12, 2001. I have no idea how that was accepted by the USPTO! See page 3 of the response here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/50361122

  • Andy

    I love taylor swift and if you tell us her email and phone number and where shelives that will be more great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • michelle

    I love Taylor Swift she’s my most favorite sing in the whole galxey