Last year I posted about the trademark infringement complaint by PayPal against Pandora, based on Pandora’s rebranded “P” logo that was introduced in October 2016.  See a comparison below of PayPal’s blue “PP” design mark (left) with Pandora’s blue “P” design mark (right).

Last November, the parties reached a written settlement agreement and stipulated to

– Draeke Weseman, Weseman Law Office, PLLC

Musicians love their trademarks. Whether its Taylor Swift, applying to register everything imaginable in connection with her album “1989,” or Lionel Richie, wondering about Adele’s use of the word “Hello,” musicians seem delighted by the prospects of owning the English language.

Mark Kassa is one such

–Dan Kelly, Attorney

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board recently issued a precedential decision upholding the Trademark Office’s refusal to register five applications for the mark .MUSIC in connection with a variety of goods and services, holding that .MUSIC is merely descriptive of the goods and services.  A PDF copy of the decision is here

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:


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by David Mitchel, Vice President of Marketing at Norton Mitchel Marketing

Branding is an intricate and complicated process. Every aspect of the marketing mix must be handled with care. Brand managers watch their brands in the same manner that most parents care for a newborn child. However, there is an element of marketing communications that brand management teams are unable to directly control: pop culture references about the brands in what appear to be non product placement contexts. These pop culture references can come from both old and new media. They are often found in music, and frequently occur in the hip hop genre. In recent years, brands have been prominent parts of popular YouTube videos. As social media evolves, it has the potential to present new threats for brands. With regard to pop culture references, it is a challenging minefield that brands must negotiate carefully in order to prevent them from detracting from marketing strategy.

In 2003, hip hop artist 50 Cent became a huge sensation with the album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”. One of the many hit songs from that album was “In Da Club”. Near the beginning of the song, the lyric “we gon’ sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday” appears. This is not the only time that the Bacardi brand has been mentioned in song lyrics, but it is certainly one of the more prominent references. In its advertising over the years, Bacardi has crafted an image of being a fun brand, as their ads often feature a party scene. This may have inspired 50 Cent to write the lyric in the way that he did. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Bacardi featured a “Bacardi By Night” print advertising campaign. These ads clearly targeted individuals with serious jobs and emphasized that Bacardi was a part of their work-life balance.   Additionally, Bacardi has also used their long standing and rich history as a selling proposition in advertising. Bacardi’s association with fun and partying may have attracted the hip hop element, as extravagant partying is a common theme of hip hop imagery. However, this association is tenuous at best and does not appear to be widely perceived. Bacardi has strongly withstood unsolicited pop culture references and its well refined marketing communication messages have helped to ensure that they remain the world’s largest spirits brand.


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