Beyoncé recently filed suit against a company for trademark infringement based on their use of the term “Feyoncé” on apparel. They’ve even got this nice mug:
It seems pretty clear what they’re going for here. There are a couple of trademark applications pending for FEYONCE and FEYONCE’. Interestingly enough, both have been issued preliminary refusals based on a likelihood of confusion with the registered trademark BEYONCE’, along with a few other issues in the application. Seeing as the applicant is not the first to have applied to register FEYONCE, I’m assuming it’s safe to say he probably won’t be successful.
There seems to be something of a movement in the music industry where artists file trademark applications for song titles, album titles, and phrases in songs. Taylor Swift filed a number of applications for BLANK SPACE (only one of them linked) for example. I’m not sure when this started but it seems like a reaction to decreasing album sales and other revenue sources. Copyright just isn’t providing as much as it used to. By locking up trademark registrations for titles and lines from songs, the artist secures a revenue source through merchandising and can exclude others from that space. The proliferation of sites like Etsy make it easy for people to start up small business and reach people across the nation. That changes the landscape of the “knock off” merchandise game, if that’s what Feyoncé is.
Of course, merchandising is nothing new. The New Kids On The Block famously sued over use of their names in a newspaper poll because of its perceived encroachment on their merchandising efforts. But the revenue shift in the music industry has created a push to find new ways to protect intellectual property, including filing trademark applications for just about every song title an artist releases.
It’s not that difficult to print up a few t-shirts and offer them on your website to secure use in commerce for the mark. It gets a little more onerous once you try to cover many different types of goods. But if your as big as Beyoncé, I’d say it shouldn’t be too difficult to prove you’re a famous mark and enjoy some extra protections.