Taylor Swift Has Made Her Mark on the Music Industry; Now She Must Protect It - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Taylor Swift Has Made Her Mark on the Music Industry; Now She Must Protect It

Taylor Swift Has Made Her Mark on the Music Industry; Now She Must Protect It

Photo Credit: sallyhoang9 Flickr via Compfight cc

In a 2016 interview with Vogue, Taylor Swift said her number one piece of advice to anyone who wants to become a singer is to “get a good lawyer.”1 Swift has taken that advice to heart, and has been making good use of her own team of lawyers recently, filing a series of trademark applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect lyrics from her newest album, Reputation.2

Swift has a reputation of taking legal action to protect her carefully crafted brand.3 Throughout her career she has successfully trademarked her name, her album titles, such as Fearless and Speak Now, and her lyrics, such as “cause we never go out of style” and “this sick beat.”4 These marks prevent outside companies or individuals from using these words on entertainment services, clothing, accessories, and other products.5 Moreover, they protect Swift’s ability to use the phrases on her own merchandise, and to be profitable in doing so.6

In the wake of Swift’s highly anticipated sixth album, her lawyers set out on yet another trademark filing binge.7 The Swift team filed trademarks in an attempt to protect the lyrics “look what you made me do” and “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now,” along with the album’s title, “Reputation.”8 These applications are currently pending.9

According to Billboard.com, “Swift is one of the only A-list musicians to pursue lyrical trademarks so aggressively.”10 This propensity to protect her brand has been controversial within the industry, with some claiming that by doing so, she is cheating her fans.11 But this is a business, and Swift is using her business savvy to protect and profit from the brand that she has worked so hard to create.12

These days, Swift is one of the only artists who can still sell albums in extremely high numbers.13 She has extraordinary power in the music industry, and her pursuit of trademarks is just another example of how she uses that power.14 Selling licensed merchandise has become an increasingly lucrative business, and perhaps other artists will follow Swift’s lead and take control of their own brands by trademarking more aggressively.15

Swift’s team filed its most recent trademark applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office right before Swift dropped her new album, under the “intent to use” designation.16 This status gives Swift six months to prove the marks’ commercial value.17 After selling 1.05 million copies of Reputation in its first four days, Swift appears to be well on her way to this proof.18

  1. Joe Sabia, 73 Questions Answered by Your Favorite Celebs: Taylor Swift (Apr. 19, 2016), https://video.vogue.com/watch/taylor-swift-beverly-hills-home-tour-73-questions [https://perma.cc/YV5F-4KUP].

  2. See Cherie Hu, Why Taylor Swift Trademarks Her Lyrics and Why Other Acts May Follow Suit, Billboard (Sept. 22, 2017), http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7973694/taylor-swift-trademarks-lyrics-why-other-acts-may-follow [https://perma.cc/Z32M-SQ2A].

  3. See id.

  4. See e.g., Swift, Taylor Trademarks, Justia, https://trademarks.justia.com/owners/swift-taylor-1396036/page3 [https://perma.cc/BF8P-XW3E].

  5. See Hu, supra note 2.

  6. See id.; See also Megan Buerger, The Real Reason Behind Taylor Swift Trying to Trademark ‘This Sick Beat,’ Billboard (Feb. 6, 2015), http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6465331/taylor-swift-trademark-phrases-this-sick-beat-1989 [https://perma.cc/7ACX-3CTY].

  7. See Hu, supra note 2.

  8. Id.

  9. Id.

  10. Hu, supra note 2.

  11. Andrew Trendell, Lawyers Respond to Taylor Swift’s Attempt to Copyright Phrases from New Album ‘Reputation,” NME (Sept. 7, 2017), http://www.nme.com/news/music/lawyers-respond-taylor-swifts-attempt-copyright-phrases-new-album-reputation-2135122 [https://perma.cc/BAE5-WK2F].

  12. See Hu, supra note 2.

  13. See Hilary Weaver, What’s the New Taylor Swift All About? Just Look at the Trademarks, Vanity Fair (Sept. 5, 2017), https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2017/09/taylor-swift-trademarks-reputation-album [https://perma.cc/SR4W-X8FZ].

  14. Id.

  15. See Hu, supra note 2.

  16. Hu, supra note 2.

  17. Id.

  18. Keith Caulfield, Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’ Sold 1.05M Copies in First Four Days in US, Now 2017’s Top Selling Album, Billboard (Nov. 14, 2017), http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/8038287/taylor-swift-reputation-sold-105-million-copies-first-four-days [https://perma.cc/M2XS-RANT].

Alexandra Lane

Alexandra Lane is a second year law student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media, & Entertainment Law Journal. She spends her free time listening to trademarked Taylor Swift music.