If you start making money with your music e.g. by selling albums, do you have to have a unique artist name? What if it turns out there's a band with the same name in Uruguay or something?
Interesting question - not sure how the trademarking/copyrighting of band names go, but we just secured rights for our business name and logo. There was another business with the same name as ours, but it's no longer operating, and there's a business in another part of the US with a name similar to ours. My brother is a patent attorney and he knows the ins and outs - we're able to keep our name.
The Grateful Dead became the Grateful Dead because originally they were the Warlocks and they found out there was another Warlocks. In the late '80s, the Dead played a few shows billed as "Formerly the Warlocks."
There's a band from Kansas called the Jayhawks, which is also the mascot name of the University of Kansas. I wonder if the band ever had legal issues with its name.
If your band has the same name as the band in Uruguay, you probably go through some kind of process to show that you came up with your idea independently, I suppose. Another interesting consideration - what if there's a band in Uruguay called Las Bestias (The Beasts in Spanish) and you call yourself The Beasts in your native language? And beasts is a very common word, too.
And if you're going by your name, there's a good chance someone else in the world has that name. I know there's a Chip Withrow in Washington state, and he's employed in some kind of religious capacity. No one is going to get us confused.
Fun topic to discuss, but my short answer would be I don't know - ask a lawyer.
I released one album under the name Crows Say Vee-Eh (I live in Crozet, VA). I don't think I have to worry about any band naming issues!
There was a band in the 60's called Nirvana, and there's a band in Japan called Jellyfish. I have no idea how it all works, or what the legalities of it are, but I'm sure there are a lot of bands out there with the same name as other bands.
I was going to use the name 'The Hypnic Jerks' when I first started doing FAWM, but I found out there was already a band with that name, so I left it alone and used my own name instead.
It can become a problem. There was a group that I liked to listen to called Double Indemnity. When the group split up and reformed the name changed to Empty Hats. I seem to recall there being some legal reasons for it... like they would have kept the old name if they could. I think it only becomes a problem when someone makes it a problem.
I think the only solid solution to your problem is to hire some mercenaries to track down the other band and "persuade" them to change their name. That's what I did.
I've read a bit about this in the past but it's all a little vague at this point. And only applies to the U.S. If you can prove you are using the name and the other band isn't and it isn't trademarked you are good to go. Most people/bands/artists don't spend the thousand bucks to register their name which can cause issues. But if you can prove you had it first and continuously used it (even in minor situations) then you're good to go. But who wants that trouble? Of course, who has a thousand bucks to blow on registering their band name when we aren't even making enough for coffee off of our bandcamp albums?
It's not essential - anyone who has spent any time with last.fm knows there can be many active artists sharing a name. But sometimes a band will run up against a litigious rival in a country that allows legal challenge. Yazoo had to become Yaz in the US; Suede ended up as The London Suede (also in the US).
My name is Tom Jones. I am a singer. It's not unusual. Before I even started, I couldn't use my own name. When I play solo, I go by plainwhitetoast. After about 8 years, I learned there is a classic rock cover band in Minnesota called Plain White Toast that own plainwhitetoast.com. I'm not going to stop using plainwhitetoast (will burn the legal bridge if I ever get to it). I've thought of rebranding as Ptom Djones, but I've been plaintoast for over 20 years now.
With 7.3+ billion people and growing on the planet, this problem will only get worse.
i love being Wobbie Wobbit, there is one other somehow on facebook but it is fairly unique. i remember the sessions down the pub when we were "re-forming the Band" i have the lists still. Our drummer found "The New Spapers" hilarious.
(I'm a patent attorney but only do the technical stuff, so I'm not at all an expert in copyright or trademark, only know some basics, plus there are differences depending on the country ... legal guys, always doing this Disclaimer thing ... if you're still interested, here're are the basics that stuck with me)
Copyright; Just by writing a song or a novel and recording or even notating it you own the copyright to your creation, no need to apply somewhere (it gets more tricky when you want to sue somebody for stealing your song, having your copyright registered is helpful or even necessary then). Guess most of you will know this.
Names: I think there are several things that can apply here. But Copyright does not apply for names (unless maybe your name has the length of a novel ;)). You can register a band name as a trademark if nobody else has a trademark on it, I assume that's what many big artists might do, also for the merch. Costs a bit of money though, especially if you want to cover more than just one country. There are official registers where you can search online if a trademark has been registered for a e.g. certain name or word. Then, it needs to be registered for the same purpose, if somebody uses that name for baby food, you could probably still use it as a band name. I assume the Nirvana band in the 60s never had a trademark on their name.
Names of restaurants and shops yet something else. According to German law (even if you did not register a trademark) you may not use the same name for a restaurant if there's already another restaurant with the same name in the area e.g. in town. Better (and more than regional) protection with a registered trademark though.
Then, why former band members can't use the band name any, is probably due to agreements they signed with the other band members. Nothing relevant for us.
So if the band in Uruguay owns a trademark on that name in Finland you will probably get in trouble, but I think Google will tell you if there's somebody else using the name on the planet nowadays.
@plainwhitetoast you can be Plainwhitetoast Jones. Makes ya sound like you're from the crossroads.