“That sick beat,” “Could show you incredible things,” “Nice to meet you. Where you been?” Sound familiar? According to Time, Taylor Swift has applied to trademark these lyrics, among others, from her recent album, 1989. But these sound like ordinary, everyday sayings–can Swift successfully obtain a trademark to these phrases? Yes. While a trademark cannot be an generic word or phrase, (i.e. tissue or salty) standards for trademarks otherwise are fairly low. Generally, the suggested trademark must be an arbitrary word, such that it does not relate to the associated product or service, or a fanciful word or phrase (with no dictionary definition). Therefore, if Swift is successful, she can prevent the use of these phrases on commercial products (she cannot prevent their utterance). This would include items such as lunch boxes, water bottles, and t-shirts. NYU Professor Sprigman, in the Time article, notes that this is a savvy move by Swift in response to the increased digitization of music (i.e. through streaming), and decreased ability of artists to generate profits from their music. In fact, last year Swift pulled her music from Spotify as well. Therefore, as musicians look for ways to generate revenue, will more and more artists begin to trademark their lyrics? Will the result be a fear manufacturers to create products inspired by these artists, or a musician’s monopoly of a market for these goods?
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