Copyright and names
We are often asked questions like ‘Can I copyright a company name?’, ‘Can I register the title to my book?’, or ‘How do I protect a band name?’.
Copyright does not protect individual names, titles or phrases.
Such items may easily be duplicated by coincidence, and are therefore not considered unique or substantial enough to be awarded copyright protection in their own right. Copyright laws are actually very restrictive, and to apply these laws to items that may be duplicated coincidentally, or that may be legitimately used in unrelated instances, (such as a name, title or phrase), makes no sense.
Because names, title or phrases are not themselves subject to copyright in their own right, this not something we can help you with.
For a full explanation of this you may wish to see the following fact sheet: P-18 Names, titles and copyright.
Company, organisation or brand names
We cannot accept registrations that only consist of the company, organisation or brand name.
We can however accept applications for copyright works such as a logo, research papers, leaflets, promotional literature, corporate documents, web site, etc.
These can be registered using our standard copyright registration forms but we cannot accept applications that only consist of a name.
What protection is available for names?
Provided the name is unique enough, it may be possible to register a company or brand name as a trademark. Please see your national patent/trademark office for details.
‘Passing off’ rules
There is a concept known as passing off and under those rules a company or organisation can object to someone who is seen to be trading off their already established name or implying association with them.
There are some places where you can announce your use of a name, such as Bandname.com. Although this does not offer legal protection, it does at least ensure that there is record of your use of the name that can be publicly searched.
Although if you include the band name when you register an album or song, this would by implication prove that you were using the name at that point, you should be clear that this does not directly protect the name.