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One Direction in Band Name Trademark Infringement Battle

Friday May 4, 2012 at 2:14pm
One Direction, the X Factor stars who are on their way to becoming international superstars and are credited for bringing back the boy-band craze of the late 1990s, are currently locked in a legal battle over their band name.

The band, who are protégés of music mogul Simon Cowell, are being sued by an American group with the same name.

The American One Direction seek $1 million (£630,000) in damages, as well as a share of the British One Direction’s profits because of trademark infringement.

What’s in a name?

The heated ’Battle of the Band’ provides a lesson for all of us who have an idea, brand, band, or slogan that could end up making millions: protect your trademark in all the geographic markets that you are considering by way of trademark registration … and make sure you register a trademark before the opposition gets in ahead of you.

It is often overlooked that rock bands and groups are effectively legal partnerships and band names are a partnership asset that is jointly owned by all the members of the group absent any contrary intention. This causes huge problems when and if the band splits up. Who owns the band name? The answer is to ensure that the band name is protected by trademark registration.

It is not yet clear whether or not the lesser-known American rock band can truly claim trademark infringement, as it’s rather surprising that a seasoned music veteran like Simon Cowell would let his new talent launch an enterprise without knowing that their trademark is secure.

Some experts in trademark litigation say that groups and bands should look for names that are exceedingly unique and personal, rather than using a common turn or phrase, a strategy that can help avoid a One Direction catastrophe from happening.

*NSYNC, a boy band from the 1990s that achieved the kind of success that the X Factor group is hoping to achieve, is cited as a particularly good example because of the unique asterisk (often used as an apostrophe) and the fact that the band spelled the familiar phrase “in synch” uniquely, with letters from their own names.

No backing down

The American One Direction, who seek damages and a share of the British success story’s profits, told Radio 1 that though Simon Cowell “is obviously a very smart man,” they are not intimidated by his success in business.

Perhaps Cowell is not intimidating the American pop-rockers, but the British One Direction’s network of avid fans may be doing the job for him. Sean O’Leary, singer for the American group, said that they had received hate mail and even death threats from fans of the UK band over the legal battle.

Syco, Cowell’s record label, told the same Radio 1 programme that it was seeking an “amicable decision” over the trademark infringement case. Given the determination of the American band, the fact that they came together a year before the UK pop stars had even met, and filed a trademark application before them, an amicable decision may be far from in the works.
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