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  • Writer's pictureCassandra L. Wilkinson

Taylor Swift is Making Headlines in the Realm of Intellectual Property

While I am not a big TSwift fan (or T-Swizzle as she is also commonly referred to), I am well aware, just like the rest of the world, that there are many, many people out there that love the lady and her music. However, given the recent headlines I have come across, I do have to acknowledge Ms. Swift’s (and her team of managers and advisors) forward thinking, planning, and knowledge of the value of her intellectual property. The steps that she and her team have taken to protect her intellectual property are something that every artist should take into consideration and act upon if they want to keep their creations safe. Now I am sure that Taylor is far from the only artist out there that is actively pursuing protection for their creative works, and that many more have gone to great and costly measures to cover every possible use of such property. Taylor Swift is such a high profile celebrity that she makes headlines for her every move, and a recent article made me wonder:
To what length do artists have to go to today to cover all possible extension of protection for their intellectual property?
Well, it takes a creative mind to come up with all such possible avenues and uses for what they consider to be their intellectual property. For example, and back to Taylor, recently an article was published in The Wall Street Journal1 that briefly covered Ms. Swift’s trademarks related to her 2014 album entitled “1989”, all of which trademark applications are for catchphrases from the album. Taylor Swift has submitted trademark applications for the following:
THIS SICK BEAT in 16 classes
PARTY LIKE IT’S 1989 in 16 classes
The classes she has claimed in the applications for these marks are for a wide range of goods and services, including but not limited to, musical instruments and accessories, paper products, bags and handbags, home décor and housewares, clothing, toys, entertainment and retail services, beauty products, jewelry, and Christmas ornaments. Ms. Swift has also submitted eighteen trademark applications to register her initials as well as one trademark application for the mark SWIFTSTAKES, which would be used for the purpose of arranging and conducting contests and sweepstakes.
Not only is Taylor making aggressive efforts to protect herself, but she also has professionals actively watching and investigating the possible infringement of her intellectual property. Recently, Etsy, Inc. released a statement that it would act “swiftly and in compliance” with its trademark guidelines after sellers on the e-commerce site were asked to immediately stop selling and remove items (like t-shirts and candles) that were inspired by Taylor Swift.
Many other artists have also had intellectual property disputes long before Taylor, and have also been protecting and defending their intellectual property rights just as aggressively, For example, Katy Perry (who is as well known and loved as Taylor) recently had her legal counsel contact and send a cease and desist letter to a 3-D printing service that was using a model of the “left shark” from Perry’s Super Bowl performance, claiming that the shark’s image was her intellectual property and that the unauthorized re-production of it constituted infringement. However, there is some debate as to whether the shark can be copyrighted and/or considered as intellectual property.
While this blog article is mostly about Taylor, what really interested me is the dramatic increase in the awareness of the value of intellectual property, especially by those celebrities and artists that usually do not make headlines in this area. More celebrities like Sam Smith, Robin Thicke, and Pharrell Williams are showing up in the news headlines for involvement in copyright infringement issues, which I am sure we will see more of in the future.
With the help of her team and their proactive efforts of protection, Taylor is working to build an empire that will allow her to use her intellectual property in an almost limitless ways with as much protection as possible.

1. The Wall Street Journal; January 29, 2015, Taylor Swift Trademarks ‘This Sick Beat’ and Other Catchphrases by Sarene Leeds
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