Bad Blood? Taylor Swift’s “Lover” Application Refused

Whether you’re a fan of her music or not, you cannot deny that Taylor Swift is not only a very successful singer songwriter but that she is also an astute business woman. In particular, she seems to be exceptionally shrewd when it comes to protecting intellectual property (IP) rights.

Consequently, it wasn’t a particular shock to find out that she’d sought to register ‘Lover’ (the name of her latest album) as a trade mark at the US Patent and Trade Mark office. What was perhaps more surprising was that the application was refused.

Applications are also pending in the EU Intellectual Property Office for the word ‘Lover’, as well as a figurative iteration of the word.

Recognising the value of IP

Taylor’s most recent trade mark application is one of a number of examples where IP rights have been used by her/her team so as to maximise earning potential and also exert control (remember when her entire back catalogue was removed from Spotify, just in time for the release of her album ‘1989’? If so, you might also remember that 1989 became one of the fastest selling albums of all time).

Consequently, Taylor Swift provides an excellent illustration as to how entrepreneurs and SMEs can protect and exploit their IP rights for maximum commercial gain; crucially, she (and/or her team) understand what is protected (such as sound recordings, through copyright) or which can be protected, by registration (such as a trade mark).

In addition, knowing her market/audience allows her to pre-empt what may become popular – this enables her to file (for example) trade mark applications for a name or phrase that might become fashionable/commercially valuable because of her, and before a third party does so. In that regard, the writer notes the existence of a recent trade mark application at the USPTO by Taylor Swift’s company (TAS Rights Management, LLC) for ‘Meredith and Olivia Swift’ (Meredith and Olivia are the names of Taylor’s two cats – a fact which I sadly knew off-hand, and did not have to Google).

I knew (earlier rights) were trouble….

Businesses can learn a lot from the way that Taylor approaches IP; knowing what it is, how it can be protected and the commercial advantage it can afford you.

Taylor’s most recent trade mark applications provide a further lesson, particularly in relation to branding. The trade mark applications that Taylor files are (generally speaking and with ignoring the cat related application referred to above) for lyrics or phrases that have (or are anticipated to) catch the imagination of her fan base. We’d expect that the lyrics and songs come first, followed by the trade mark filings.

That may well explain why the name of her album is ‘Lover’, rather than something that would have been more easily registered at the USPTO/EUIPO. As we say above, the USPTO have recently declined to register ‘Lover,’ as a consequence of existing and earlier registrations for the word.

In addition, the application at the EUIPO shows as ‘under examination’ notwithstanding a filing date of April 2019. The lengthy nature of the examination period suggests that the route to registration in the EU is not going to be straightforward either (a simple search of the EU trade mark register shows over 500 trade marks or applications that include the word ‘Lover’ which may provide some indication as to why there is such a delay).

This particular pitfall can more easily be navigated by a business; before committing and investing in a trade mark, clearance searches can be undertaken across all jurisdictions in which registration is sought, to establish whether there are any conflicting trade mark in existence.

Once the clearance search has been undertaken, an informed decision can be taken by the business as to whether to proceed with a trade mark application or whether it wants to revisit its branding, with a view to avoid challenges during the registration process.

Taylor Swift IP

How can Nelsons help?

Emma Ward is a Partner in our Dispute Resolution team, specialising in contentious intellectual property matters.

For more information on the subjects discussed in this article, please contact Emma on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form, and she will be happy to assist.