Taylor Swift Among Copyright Infringement Trend

Taylor Swift is one of the most renowned musicians in the world. As a master in her craft, Swift’s music spans the country and pop genres. Often writing songs pertaining to her own life experiences, she creates a bond with her audience, as many can relate to the same issues she writes about. In an attempt to thwart naysayers, she gains the affections of her fans, known as the Swifties. In addition to her physical presence, Swift commands a strong following on social media. At the beginning of this year, she boasted more than 85.5 million Twitter followers and 125 million Instagram followers.

While Swift has been a star since she began her career at the young age of 14, she continues to rise in popularity and stardom. With each of her five concert tours, she consistently increased her worth, attracting a bigger audience and generating more revenue, with fewer shows each time. In addition to her concerts, she generates revenue via endorsements, albums, and merchandise. As such, Swift’s net worth is upwards of $360 million.

Even though Swift enjoys a lucrative career for all of her efforts, she also faces contentions. One of those contentions that many musicians before her have encountered includes the threat of a copyright infringement lawsuit. This is not uncommon in the music industry, which is rife with such lawsuits. In fact, in the last five years, the number of infringement cases has risen, causing musicians to become extra cautious and spend more on emissions and omissions (E&O) insurance.

For musicians with chart-topping hits, they are at an even bigger risk of infringement claims. Such is the case with Taylor Swift and her biggest hit to date, “Shake It Off.” Songwriters Nathan Butler and Sean Hall claim that the hit contains phrases lifted from their song “Playas Gon’ Play.” Although the case was dismissed in February 2018 for unoriginal content, it has been reinstated by the Ninth Circuit. Both parties argue about the usage of the common words “Players” and “Haters,” and variations thereof. Butler and Hall claim Swift lifted the lyrics from their song, while Swift claims it is merely a coincidence.

This case, along with several others, present “Blurred Lines” within the music industry in regards to copyright infringement. In 2018, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were handed a controversial verdict to the tune of $5 million, making it one of the highest profile copyright infringement cases in the music industry. The verdict raises concerns in the industry that it stifles song creativity for basing a decision on a music style rather than specific aspects of songs.

These concerns seem to be validated with the number of infringement cases increasing for star musicians such as Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift, among others, since the filing of the “Blurred Lines” case. Given that a number of high-profile musicians have lost cases of infringement recently, it will be interesting to see how Swift will Shake It Off in this particular case. At the very least, musicians will have to take extra measures to keep their work protected.

5 Reasons Pandemics & Movements Create Trademark Pursuit

The year 2020 has created high emotions amidst a presidential election, movements, and a pandemic. Whether these instances cause fear, uncertainty, opportunities, anger, or happiness, the entire world is in it together. This year is especially unprecedented as everyone is affected in some aspect by any one of these issues.

As such, these issues create interest in the intellectual property realm, generating more trademark applications. The following lists five common reasons these issues heighten trademark pursuit:

  • Uniqueness: Often, a pandemic or movement brings about a new term (at least a term not familiar to much of the public). For the entire world, one of the most commonly heard terms this year is “coronavirus.” While coronaviruses have been around for ages, each new strain is given a name of its own. In the current pandemic, the coronavirus strain is known as COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.” One of the qualities of good trademarks is that they are unique or distinctive and help consumers identify with products and services. Generic names that are common cannot be trademarked. Therefore, when a new global term comes along, it is not unusual for people to want to capture the word as their own.
  • Ownership: As the world’s population experiences the pandemic together, it brings a sense of belonging. Everyone is affected in some sense, from mask mandates, to contracting the actual virus, and even experiencing detrimental effects of the virus. Applying for a trademark gives people a sense of ownership and a sense of control.
  • Emotion: The BLM movement this year has spurred protests and riots. As such, strong emotions accompany this movement. Therefore, people may file for trademark applications with the hope that the movement remains relevant and important.
  • Capitalization: People apply for trademarks during movements and pandemics in the hopes of capitalizing on trending terms. As such, some trademark applications this year include “I heart COVID-19,” “Quarantini,” and “Social Distance Fitness,” among others. Common products people hope to use include T-shirts, other clothing, mugs, and more.
  • Misunderstanding: Many people hurriedly apply for trademarks with the misunderstanding that the first to file wins the rights to the trademarks. However, the first to file applies to patents, not trademarks. Often, people misunderstand that that they cannot simply rush to own a trademark just to own it; they must have a viable use for a product or service associated with that trademark.
As you can see, pandemics and movements spark many emotions that lead people to try and capitalize on specific terms associated with those issues. However, there is much misunderstanding in these circumstances. As such, applying for trademarks associated with these issues is typically a waste of time and money. Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter to learn about the main reasons why trademark applications are often denied in these circumstances.