Forget Just Copyright, Now People Are Trademarking Music As Well

from the stop-it-before-it's-too-late dept

Ah, the world of intellectual property law is getting more and more ridiculous. The latest is that patent lawyer Carl Oppedahl has been allowed to trademark a 16-second musical introduction. The USPTO had initially pointed out that with a song that long, it seemed like it should be covered by copyright, not trademarks. But Oppedahl pushed them on this, pointing out that other long recordings have been trademarked as well. Still, if this catches on, it could become an issue. You could see a potential case where a musician could try to get around compulsory license rules for covers by claiming trademark on the work, and using that to block others from performing the song. That would set up quite an epic court battle, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come to pass before too long.

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Comments on “Forget Just Copyright, Now People Are Trademarking Music As Well”

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Jon B. (profile) says:

big deal?

I didn’t click through to the article, but I don’t see the big deal on this one. Trademark doesn’t prevent people from copying the the 16-second song. It just prevents people from using it in commerce in a confusing way.

What’s more ridiculous: trademarking a longer 16-second musical composition or trademarking a shorter series of 3 notes?

Richard (profile) says:

It is the recording that is trademarked

You could see a potential case where a musician could try to get around compulsory license rules for covers by claiming trademark on the work,

My interpretation of the original link is that it is the recording that is trademearked. Another musician performing the same work would fall outside the scope of trademark protection unless the resulting recording was indistinguishable from the original.

Atomic Kommie Comics (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trademark on the Frankenstein Monster...

“I’m still shocked that Paramount has a trademark on the Frankenstein monster. The one with the flat head and the bolts coming out of his neck.”

!) Universal Pictures (not Paramount) has a trademark on the makeup design, not the character.
ANYONE can do a “Frankenstein” movie, tv series, novel, comic, etc. (The original novel is Public Domain)
It’s just that the Monster can’t LOOK like the version from the Universal film series!
Go to the Internet Movie DataBase to see how many different versions there have been since the first Universal Frankenstein in 1931!

Mike Brown says:

Apples and Oranges

Trademark and copyright are two different things. Carl Oppedahl wasn’t trying to protect the music, as music – the copyright belongs to someone else and he has a license to use it – he was trying to protect the use of that music as an identifier for his talks.

There’s nothing new or unusual about this. The Harlem Globetrotters registered the tune “Sweet Georgia Brown” as a trademark for “entertainment services in the nature of basketball exhibitions”. Going back even further, part of the William Tell Overture is registered for “entertainment services, namely, a continuing drama show distributed over television, satellite, audio, and video media” – Hi Yo Silver, Away!

That doesn’t stop someone from singing “Sweet Georgia Brown” or an orchestra from performing “William Tell”, it just means no other basketball team or TV show can use those themes in connection with their services.

Josh Taylor says:

Blocking people from singing a trademarked song will require surveillance cameras to be installed in homes to monitor their personal or family activities to determine whether if they sing a trademarked lyric that would be considered a trademark infringement.

I think Weird Al Yankovic, and Cletus T. Judd will be both going to prison since they’re parodying a trademarked lyric.

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