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Can my music player app have the same name as a musician band? It's common words.

For example, let's say there is a group called "Black Stones" (this is not the name, just an example). And I want to call my music player app "Black Stones - Music Player".

The group is Korean and the words are common things like that.

And different question I guess. What if I use a name that is similar to a beauty product name with switched words. For example, beauty product is called "Black Stones", again just an example, and I call my music player "Stones Black - Music Player". As this is unrelated industries I guess I would be safe? Or it will be expensive to defend myself if they choose to sue?

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    A Danish female rock band was called "Shit and Chanel". Playing on the Danish expression "skidt og kanel", this was an ingenious and fun word play. However, Chanel (the company) complained and the band had to find another name. Oct 25, 2023 at 11:53
  • I added a tag for South Korea. You should add another tag if you are in a different country.
    – Freiheit
    Oct 25, 2023 at 20:39

2 Answers 2

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This is a trademark question, not a copyright question.

The core ultimate legal question is whether the music app name creates a reasonable probability of confusion, for a typical consumer of the music app, that the music app is affiliated with the band. If it does, it is probably trademark infringement. If it doesn't, it probably isn't trademark infringement.

This would have to be evaluated on a case by case basis, as a factual issue, based upon the evidence presented at a trial in court. It could come out either way depending on the particular facts and the quality of the presentation made by the lawyers in court.

It will absolutely be expensive to defend yourself in court if they choose to sue.

If you see a possibility of confusion great enough to ask about it, it is probably a high risk that you would be sued and might lose. Also, the economic value of your business might be destroyed even if you are vindicated in the end at a trial, due to the fact that pending litigation makes you toxic to investors and other vendors and users. If you can see a potential for trouble on the horizon that can be avoided at the outset, avoid trouble.

If you really like the name, considering having the band in question license their name to you for use in the music app, effectively endorsing it, in exchange for a fee and/or for a share of your revenues.

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    After Apple Corps vs Apple Computer, I'd opine that choosing a different name is preferable over licensing. Try to avoid choices that are likely to bite you if you become wildly successful.
    – Brian
    Oct 25, 2023 at 13:26
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    Considering the vast number of bands and variety of names, isn't it a potential problem that nearly any meaningful combination of common words infringes someone's trademark?
    – Barmar
    Oct 25, 2023 at 15:11
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Music players and music bands belong to similar enough domains to make trademark confusion a possibility. A "Beatles player" would strongly imply some level of endorsement by the band, and would not be legal without their permission.

Ignore anything not music related, it does not affect your trademark rights.

If brought to court, the following will matter:

  • Is the Korean band's name originally spelled in English, or just translate to the same? If the latter, you're in the clear.
  • Has it released any albums, and if so, in multiple countries, or only in Korea?
  • Who's the publishing label? It shouldn't matter, but it does; Sony is particularly litigious.
  • Is there any novelty to the name? Awesome Music (band) vs Awesome Music (player) would be too descriptive for trademark protection.
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    The Beatles have a related real-world example: they had a record label called "Apple" which subsequently had trademark issues when Apple (the computer company) went into music distribution. (Edit: @Brian looks to have made a very similar comment on the other answer pretty much at the same time as me)
    – DavidW
    Oct 25, 2023 at 13:27
  • @DavidW The Beatles' Apple had no trademark issues, since they were first. The computer company had to deal with several lawsuits and agree not to enter the music business (which they reneged upon).
    – user253751
    Oct 25, 2023 at 20:21
  • (The Mac system alert sound sosumi was named to sound like “So sue me” in reference to the long-running court battle…)
    – gidds
    Oct 25, 2023 at 20:36

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