Does it make good business sense?
Earlier this week, it was claimed that song title ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ and lyric ‘The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now’ are among the phrases that she is seeking to control in order to use them on a wide range of merchandise that includes everything from guitar picks to t-shirts.
This comes after Swift previously attempted to trademark key phrases from 2014 album ‘1989’ – as well as the title itself. She tried to claim rights to phrases including ‘Blank Space’ and ‘Nice To Meet Ya, Where Ya Been?’ and successfully trademarked the lyric “this sick beat”.
Now, a leading intellectual property lawyer has spoken in defence of Swift’s latest move – claiming that it makes very wise business sense.
“High-street fashion designers take advantage of pop artists’ creative output by using lyrics and titles as slogans on clothing,” Jeremy Morton told NME, Partner in the Intellectual Property Group at Harbottle & Lewis. “It makes sense for the artist to protect their interests but they have to have a genuine intention to license authorised merchandise themselves.
“Any phrase can become a valid trade mark for use on a variety of merchandise. To transform a song lyric or title into a trade mark takes an investment in ‘educating the public’ to recognise the phrase as signifying a source of goods. This can be done through extensive use on goods, protection through trade mark registration, proper labelling to indicate claimed trade mark rights, and effective enforcement against unlicensed products.”
Mr Morton added: “In some ways, this could be a better strategy than relying on the artist’s name or image as the trade mark for merchandise, because the latter raises a number of potential difficulties.
“Arguably a celebrity’s name or image does not truly serve as a trade mark for merchandise, as consumers buy products bearing the name or image because they like the artist, not because they think the artist licensed the goods.”
Swift also faced criticism from the likes of Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds after launching the controversial ‘Verified Fan’ initiative with Ticketmaster – which is designed to prevent bots and touts from getting tour tickets over fans, advertising “unique activities that advance your spot in line”.
Reynolds described the campaign as “sickening” and claimed that Swift was “fleecing” her own fans.