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Posted: Sat Jul 31, 2010 12:22 pm
My wife is setting up a new business. We'd like to give it the name of an American LP from the 60s. This does not conflict with any trademarks, company registrations, or domain names, and I've read the advice sheets that state that there isn't normally copyright in names and titles. We certainly couldn't be accused of passing off. Everything indicates that we would be in the clear, but I'm nervous having been bitten before. Do we have anything to worry about?
Thanks in advance!
Posted: Sat Jul 31, 2010 3:35 pm
Generally speaking you should be fine with using titles like American Pie from a copyright point of view because they are two ordinary English words which can naturally go together. A more idiosyncratic title like Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band might be more problematic. You would only run into trademark problems if your wife's business was in some way connected with the class(es) in which the trade mark had been registered which you indicate won't be the case.
The US Courts apply similar criteria to the UK courts to determine what can be copyright although given that the music business generally is renowned for its aggressive stance on copyright infringement, you can never rule out the chance that the record company behind the album won't get their legal department to send your wife a cease and desist notice. Should this happen, that would be the moment to get professional advice, and you don't need to worry about it before that stage. A cease and desist letter would almost certainly be the first step, rather than launching straight into court proceedings.
The one small fly in the ointment might be with a URL for your wife's company and where her website is hosted. The URL name dispute resolution process is less formal than the courts so if the record company was feeling bloody minded they might use that to try and disrupt the business, and they could possibly use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act take-down procedure to try and get a US based hosting service to close your site, although I think both of these things are highly unlikely. The DMCA has penalties for those who make unfounded claims of copyright infringement, so that is a safeguard.