After a recent social media blackout and a public legal battle over sexual assault claims, Taylor Swift is due to launch her new album ‘Reputation’ in November, and is back under the media spotlight regarding a new legal trade mark application.
It has been claimed that Swift is applying to trade mark key phrases and titles from the album, including the lyric ‘The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now’ and title ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. According to the claim, the singer/songwriter intends to use these phrases on a wide range of merchandising including clothing, guitar picks and even Christmas cards.
In 2014, Swift attempted to trade mark a number of phrases from the album 1989, including ‘Party like it’s 1989’, ‘This sick beat’, ‘Cause we never go out of style’, ‘Could show you incredible things’ and ‘Nice to meet you, where you been?’. Over 100 trade mark applications are listed under Swift’s name on the Justia website (a legal database offering free legal resources and materials) for items such as crockery, glassware, jewellery, cosmetics, digital media, among many others, though many of the applications have since been abandoned or the applications extended.
However, Swift’s desire to monetise her brand has recently been criticised by other artists, such as Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds, who stated that the launch of Swift’s Verified Fan initiative with Ticketmaster was ‘fleecing fans’.
The Verified Fan initiative allows fans to advance their place in the queue for tickets to Swift’s concerts by watching her music videos or pre-ordering her Reputation album. The initiative is designed to prevent bots and touts from getting tickets before fans in an attempt to prevent over-charging, but has added to Swift’s reputation as brand and money focused. These new trade mark applications may exacerbate the issue, as Swift continues to capitalise on merchandising profits.
Lawsuits regarding artists’ trade marks have become somewhat of a regular occurrence. In December 2016, Darryl McDaniels, the owner of Run-DMC Brand LLC sought at least $50 million of damages from Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after they sold a range of Run-DMC-branded clothing and accessories without McDaniel’s permission.
Separately, Swift was sued by clothing company Blue Sphere in 2014 after she released a line of t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase ‘Lucky 13’, a trade mark Blue Sphere have owned since 1991. After an 18-month battle, the case was settled out of court.
Swift’s desire to protect her lyrics via trade marks may seem excessive, considering the protection copyright allows and whether such rights will be granted, only time will tell.