October seems to be the inescapable Taylor Swift’s unofficial month of choice – 17 years after she released her self-titled first album in October 2006, the October 2023 news cycle is buzzing about her “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” theatrical debut, re-recorded “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” album, and recent boost she’s given to the NFL’s “Reputation.” But one aspect of Taylor’s unstoppable brand that is less often mentioned is her extensive trademark portfolio, as she currently owns 180 active U.S. federal trademark registrations and applications – comprising over 50 individual marks and spanning a vast array of media, merchandise, and entertainment services. We took a spin through Taylor’s trademark holdings for some helpful trademark strategy considerations:
- “…Ready for It?” - File early for potential trademark protection: Taylor first filed a federal trademark application for her name, in connection with audio recordings and clothing products, in March 2007 – nearly six months after releasing her first album. We might have suggested filing even earlier to preclude the possibility of any potential infringers filing first, but luckily there doesn’t seem to have been any “bad blood” on that front. Along the same lines, Taylor’s team files applications for marks related to her upcoming projects – for example, the album names of her “Taylor’s Version” re-recording series – well before their release.
- “You Belong With Me” - Consider “secondary” marketing taglines for protection: More than a few headlines have been written about Taylor’s trademark applications (and later registrations) for phrases such as THIS SICK BEAT (covering guitar picks and drumsticks), PLAYERS GONNA PLAY (covering paper products and clothing), AND I’LL WRITE YOUR NAME (covering notebooks and paper products), and even (her cats’ names) MEREDITH, OLIVIA, & BENJAMIN SWIFT (for an extensive variety of merchandise), in addition to the more expected trademarks associated with her name, album and song titles, and tours. When budgets permit, protecting these more ancillary marks that may eventually become strongly associated with a brand can be a valuable marketing strategy – particularly for artists like Taylor, whose pithy lyrics launch a thousand merchandise lines.
- “I Knew You Were Trouble” - Monitor for potential infringers: Not surprisingly, Taylor’s team has been “vigilant(e)” in monitoring and opposing applications for potentially infringing trademarks, such as a 2017 opposition filing against an application for the mark SWIFTY for various Internet transmission and web design services (as you might guess, TAS Rights Management owns numerous registrations for the mark SWIFTIE for a plethora of goods and services). In addition, the relatively low number of TTAB filings also suggests the possibility of a strong enforcement program as an effective tool to curb potentially infringing applications before they can proceed to publication.
"Fearless"ly planning and protecting an expansive brand portfolio has enabled Taylor Swift to maintain control of her globally famous empire – and importantly, to also protect her legions of “enchanted” fans from imposter confusion in the marketplace.
This article appeared in the October 2023 issue of MarkIt to Market®. To view our past issues, as well as other firm newsletters, please click here.