Music Industry

Published on September 25th, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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Why is Taylor Swift Trademarking her Lyrics? Will Other Artists Follow?

She’s not quite at Gene Simmons’ level, but Taylor Swift has been rather aggressive when it comes to applying for trademarks, specifically for her lyrics. What’s the strategy behind this? And will other artists follow? Billboard takes a look.

Taylor Swift has made it clear to the world she controls her brand, and one tool the singer leverages regularly to achieve this goal is trademark law. Swift’s team has been regularly filing trademark applications for lyrics and other slogans under her holding company, TAS Rights Management LLC, striking down infringers in the process. But does it really work, and is this approach for everyone?

Earlier this month, Swift moved to trademark key phrases from her music: the title of her upcoming album Reputation, her latest single “Look What You Made Me Do” and one of the lines from said single, “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.” Swift plans to use the phrases on a variety of licensed merchandise, from t-shirts to notebooks and guitar picks. “Look What You Made Me Do” is already emblazoned across t-shirts on Swift’s online merch store, which has likely generated significant sales in conjunction with the singer’s controversial Ticketmaster Verified Fan campaign that rewards merch and music buyers with a better shot at good tickets.

This isn’t the first time Swift has tried trademarking her own lyrics, a move for which the initial application can cost anywhere from $225 to $400 per product category per trademark, with an additional $125 for each six-month extension. (Applicants can file up to five such extensions and reviving an abandoned application costs an additional $100 per product category per mark.)

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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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