Taylor Swift Changes Artwork For New Album, Merch After Online Retailer Complains Of Similarities

from the swiftly dept

If ever there were an artist who seems to straddle the line of aggressive intellectual property enforcement, that artist must surely be Taylor Swift. While Swift has herself been subject to silly copyright lawsuits, she has also been quite aggressive and threatening on matters of intellectual property and defamation when it comes to attacking journalists and even her own fans over trademark rights. So, Taylor Swift is, among other things, both the perpetrator and the victim of expansive permission culture.

You would think someone this steeped in these concerns would be quite cautious about stepping on the rights of others. And, yet, it appears that some of the iconography for Swift’s forthcoming album and merchandise was fairly callous about those rights for others.

Amira Rasool, founder of the online retailer The Folklore, accused the pop star last week of selling merchandise that ripped off the logo of her company, which sells apparel, accessories and other products by designers in Africa and the diaspora.

Rasool shared photos on Twitter and Instagram that showed cardigans and sweatshirts with the words “The Folklore Album” for sale on Swift’s website.

Are those logos confusingly similar? Given the shared brand name… yeah, probably! While not exactly the same, particularly given the font and style choices, the overall placement of the words in each logo is similar enough that I can see a valid trademark issue here.

Now, let’s be super clear about a couple of things. First, Swift has changed the logo after Rasool’s complaint. She also reached out to Rasool and commended her organization and appears to have made a contribution to it as well. Rasool herself has responded appreciatively and has said the matter is closed. A monster Taylor Swift is not.

But that isn’t really the point. In many instances, this is how trademark infringement issues happen. I have seen nothing to suggest that Swift’s team knew of Rasool’s organization and blatantly ripped off her logo. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. But it’s not tough to picture how this could have happened relatively innocently. And that immediately brings to mind the following question: would Swift have offered the same grace to the targets of her own enforcement as did Rasool? Given how aggressive she’s been in trying to trademark all the things and then going after her own fans as a result, it seems doubtful.

But maybe this is the learning opportunity she needs. I won’t hold my breath.

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Companies: folklore

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Comments on “Taylor Swift Changes Artwork For New Album, Merch After Online Retailer Complains Of Similarities”

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14 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

While there are similarities… isn’t that just a couple of words typed in Times New Roman?

Well, maybe not now that I checked it in Word as there are some differences, most notable the f on the lower case version and the o in the other version is different, at least on a Mac using Office 365.

But, honestly, if your trademark identity is based around a single common English language word presented in something that closely resembles the old default font in Office 9x, you might do well to spend more than 5 minutes creating a logo before complaining that someone else did the same hack job. I can see there being an argument with the addition and placement of "the", but it’s hardly the height of creativity.

I’m glad that this has been resolved amicably and without the usual bullying of small business owners. But, honest mistakes can happen and if your original design is so simplistic then such things would seem inevitable.

Bob Buttons says:

"A monster Taylor Swift is not."
Outside of, you know, going after her fans on Etsy: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20171107/07240138559/taylor-swift-using-dubious-trademark-registrations-to-shut-down-sales-fan-made-goods.shtml

And going after low-quality Periscope streams of her SOLD OUT shows:
https://www.dummymag.com/news/taylor-swift-issues-a-take-down-on-pirating-periscope-videos/

Does she have the legal right to do these things? Of course. Should she? The countless other giant artists that not only don’t mind it but actively encourage the growth of their fan-base say no.

Michael Barclay (profile) says:

"folkore" is a very common term in the USPTO databases

If you go to the USPTO trademark search database (TESS) and search for "folklore," you get 73 hits.
http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=toc&state=4802%3Ak3nd54.1.1&p_search=searchss&p_L=50&BackReference=&p_plural=yes&p_s_PARA1=&p_tagrepl%7E%3A=PARA1%24LD&expr=PARA1+AND+PARA2&p_s_PARA2=folklore&p_tagrepl%7E%3A=PARA2%24COMB&p_op_ALL=AND&a_default=search&a_search=Submit+Query&a_search=Submit+Query
So "folklore" is a very common term, and a descriptive one at that.
I wouldn’t criticize Taylor Swift for naming an album "folklore" when the album is an indie folk album whose subject matter is, well . . . folklore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "folkore" is a very common term in the USPTO databases

Nobody is criticizing Swift for the album. It’s the merchandise, which includes knit sweaters similar to those sold by The Folklore and putting a "The Folklore <album>" logo on them.

If she were selling T-Shirts with "THE FOLKLORE ALBUM" emblazoned across the back, I’d argue the issue didn’t exist. But in this case, she was using a similar name, logo and product that already existed.

This is differentiation that, as Timothy notes, tends to be lacking in large businesses, whose lawyers argue that they need to defend all their IP rights or they’ll lose them.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: "folkore" is a very common term in the USPTO databases

I can’t find anything that folklore sells that is remotely similar to that sweater (or any sweater really)
and they don’t seem to print their logo on their clothes in a way that is similar at all to what the album sweater is doing. I don’t think there is any valid reason to say a tshirt with the logo on the back is any different from this.

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