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I want to create a publication (monthly magazine) that incorporates the name of a defunct magazine, such as “The New [name of defunct magazine]” kind of along the lines of The New Christy Minstrels.

Is this legal? The magazine hasn't been published in several decades.

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Check the US Trademark database for a valid trademark for the word(s) of the original magazine name. Search trademark database | USPTO. The database will tell you if there was once a trademark that has now expired, or no history at all in the database.

If there isn't any history (as you note), you should still not assume you are good to go. At very least do Google searches for use of the name in other publications. You might even find old copies of the magazine and try to locate the original publisher to possibly get formal or informal permission. Keep records of your attempts to locate trademark owners.

The reason you need to do due diligence is that that even if it appears you are in the clear with use of the name, someone can still open a lawsuit against you, alleging trademark infringement. They may not have much of a case, or a case at all, but that won't stop them, and it can cost you a lot of money. Showing documentation of your research would help your case. Starting a magazine is a business, so find a lawyer to help you with the decisions you need to make.

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