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Blog: Lessons of 2012 - Trademark Law (part one)

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When i started out on the road of ROCK I hoped it would mostly involve showing off, talking to girls, and BEER. To be fair, there HAS been a bit of that, but mostly it seems to have been a long training session in TRANSFERABLE SKILLS. Setting up PA systems, writing press releases, HTML programming, dealing with printers, manufacturing merchandise, The British Postal System, these and MANY MANY MANY MANY other SKILLZ have entered my SKILLSET over the years, and in 2012, much to my surprise, we had another new entry: TRADEMARK LAW.

It may surprise you to know that I spend a lot of my time SELF-GOOGLING. Yes yes, it is a shock I know, to disover that one so INHERENTLY MODEST as I would do such a thing, but it is all part of Maintaining The Online Brand and Cross-Platform Promotion i.e. if a song pops up on a webpage somewhere it's generally a good idea to mention it on twitter, or sometimes we'll get featured somewhere ODD (as happened a LOT last year) and I'll need to DO something about. Social Media ACTION!

It was while doing this self-googling, just over a year ago, that I discovered there was another band calling themselves The Validators. Now, this was a bit annoying (surely EVERYBODY checks online before choosing a band name these days?) but I thought to myself "Oh well, they'll probably split up soon anyway, as most bands do, and they're only playing gigs in their hometown."

A month or so later I got a flurry of texts from people asking about NEW T-SHIRTS and a gig in Camden - it turns out this lot had booked a GIG in London, and had made merchandise. This was VERY annoying - in these days of Search Results and Online Shopping the world is RIPE for mistakes if this sort of thing carries on. I sent them a couple of emails to point this out to them, politely saying that we'd been using the name for 15 years, that it could easily cause confusion, and to ask them please to change their name before things went too far.

I received no response, so a few weeks later John The Publisher consulted with his LAWYER and we wrote a slightly stronger worded letter, which I emailed to them. This time I got a reply from their manager, who asked me to ring him to sort it all out. I did this and we had a very pleasant chat - he clearly wasn't up to SPEED with Modern Stuff, and told me that they HAD googled the name "The Validators", knew that we existed, but decided "it'd be OK". I politely told him it probably wouldn't, and pointed out the very very many ways things could get confusing, with gig listings, online shops, gig bookings etc etc etc. "Oh yes," he said, "We did have a thing when you played a gig at The Wilmington" [in January last year] "and they linked to our site instead. I had to ring up to see what was happening."

We had a very pleasant discussion, which was a HUGE relief to me, at the end of which he agreed to talk to the band at their next gig (in Camden - he invited me along but I couldn't go). He said they'd sort out a new name and get back to me shortly afterwards. PHEW!

The gig came and went and I heard nothing. After a month I emailed to ask how they were getting on. I heard nothing, so asked again. They didn't reply, so I looked on their facebook page and saw that they were booking MORE gigs, STILL using our name, DESPITE promising to change. After another couple of weeks I emailed yet again to ask what on earth was going on.

This time I DID get a reply, and a spectacularly ARSEY one at that. He told me to "get off my high horse" and "concentrate on the music." They had their "own identity" he said and would not be changing their name. This, he said, was his final word on the matter. I was, as you can probably understand, FLIPPING LIVID. We'd clearly had the name for MUCH longer, I'd explained to him the reason they couldn't have the same name, and he'd completely agreed, and now THIS. I sent one more reply VERY POLITELY saying how sorry I was to hear that, asking him to reconsider, and saying I'd be pursuing the matter further. I got, of course, no reply.

But what could I do about it? I looked at MUSIC LAWYER stuff and it was all INCREDIBLY expensive. I asked on twitter and everybody said "You can't do anything - forget it" or "Why are you so bothered about it? It's just a name." This latter was VERY upsetting - we've spent the past 15 years as The Validators, put in HUGE amounts of time, effort and indeed LOVE. It's been one of the biggest things in my LIFE, and suddenly I was being told that it didn't matter, and that I should just lie down and let some bunch of rude twits STEAL it.

And then I read up on Trademark Law.

It turns out that Trademark Law is pretty easy - as long as nobody else has done it you can trademark a brand name in the UK for about three hundred quid with a PEASY form. It also turns out that the Intellectual Property Office is INCREDIBLY nice and helpful - a lady from their offices even RANG ME UP to talk me through the process, as I'd mentioned in an email (they REPLY to emails!) that I was off on holiday soon, and she didn't want me to miss the deadline! I tell you what, I would apply AGAIN in an INSTANT if only I had something to trademark!

THUS my claim was filed and I spent the next six months or so waiting, watching the other lot book more and more gigs and getting the occasional email from people saying "Why didn't you tell me you were playing this festival?" that THEY had booked on to. I also noted they were talking on Facebook (and twitter - though I had LEAPT in and got @thevalidators as soon as the whole business started) about RECORDING songs, which made it all even more worrying - part of the reason for getting in touch with them EARLY was so they DIDN'T invest time and money recording anything under our name, so that they DIDN'T end up with a load of STOCK they couldn't sell.

I ALSO spent a lot of time fending off emails and ACTUAL LETTERS from INTERNATIONAL CRIMINALS!! When you apply for a trademark your name and address gets printed in their magazine, and apparently INTERNATIONAL CRIMINALS subscribe to it, nick the details, and WRITE to you saying "Oh yes, you have to pay another fee of X AMOUNT OF CA$H directly to US now, it is all part of the trademark thing, send us CA$H". I'd been forewarned about this by the IPO but still, it was a bit of a shock to get so much of it.

Anyway, six months later I got a CERTIFICATE through the post, which looked like this:

It was VERY exciting - here I was, a bona fide TRADEMARK HOLDER! In the excitement I added a (TM) symbol to our usual logo, then discovered that ACTUALLY I wanted the (R) symbol, for LO! (TM) is just for people saying "This belongs to me!", like the copyright symbol, but (R) is ONLY for people who have REGISTERED it - for LO! AGAIN! I was getting myself READ UP on the whole thing, ready to take it to the NEXT LEVEL.

And that's exactly what i did... as we'll discover TOMORROW!

posted 3/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett

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You big tease.
posted 3/1/2013 by Tim

Really looking forward to what happens next MJ. PROPERLY EXCITED!
posted 3/1/2013 by Robbie

What did the rest of The Validators think about all of this? I am in a similar situation to you at the moment and it is not GRATE! My band just want to ignore some IMPOSTERS but I am keen to SORT IT OUT. Looking forward to finding out how you resolved matters.
posted 3/1/2013 by Robbie

Is it this lot MJ? Because it looks like they are still at it! REALLY ANNOYING!
posted 3/1/2013 by Robbie

Robbie! Email me if you want some advice, i am FULL of it!! As for the Facebook - it might be, they had a flurry of attempts at other names, but all* shall be revealed TOMORROW!! (* not all, but still)
posted 3/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett

alternatively, I'm here to help :D
posted 3/1/2013 by Charlie

Great, I will do that MJ - REALLY EXCITED to be in touch, I have been a fan for a very long time. Who is Charlie by the way? Do you think that he can really help in this matter? You seem to have done really well on your own.
posted 3/1/2013 by Robbie

I'd love to do a seizure of fake validator stuff....would make up for all my years protecting the likes of phil collins and Manchester Utd!
posted 3/1/2013 by Gary Urquhart

I'd like to tell the fake Validators to (a) get off their high horse and (b) concentrate on the music. Bwahahahahaha how d'ya like them apples
posted 3/1/2013 by Charlie

I hope you also trademarked the name MJ Hibbett or someone is going to be using it for a spot of trademark trolling.
posted 3/1/2013 by Barry Loathsome (TM)

I check it every couple of months - I'm not hugely worried, it costs several hundred quid to apply and I don't think you can trademark someone's name!
posted 3/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett (C)

Whatever happened to the other frankie machine?
posted 4/1/2013 by Pauly

I'm sure you've already done this but check the ip address of the fake spam stuff from the trademark infringers against your own ip address - not because they might be in your house, but because it might be you, arguing with yourself, you might have gone mad. ALSO, you don't programme html, imo. Still excited to see how this one turns out. (bombay bad boy, and an apple)
posted 4/1/2013 by Pauly

Well....i have worked with thousands of bands over the years, all over the world, I wouldn't want to change my chosen career to become a spy. I know comments had been deleted, as when reading this interesting blog, previous comments I had read and one of my comments are no longer here. Now that's no rocket science is it? but that Is how I knew they had been deleted. I agreed with the comments that had been deleted, so that is how I could quote them. As for directly quoting the other Validators emails, I must be telepathic of something (which is a surprise to me!) as there is no possible way I could have seen those, having nothing to do with that band, or yours, especialy access to there/ your email accounts. when it comes to ip addresses? It's possible that this comment would be a 3rd time you see it as it is my 3rd comment, as for me going under different names and claiming to be different people, that is faulse, as I only used the name hibbert as a dig and no others. I think you need to stop making presumptions, and getting your knickers in a twist. Anyway enough from me as I have better things to do with signed professional bands. Although I thank you for the interesting read, I think I will seek advice about trademark laws from a more reputable source if I ever need it.
posted 4/1/2013 by ....Hibbert....

As I have nothing to do with any band under the name of the Validators, Although i do work in the music industry! By the way i love apples, and my opinion is mj hibbett should (a) got off his high horse (B) put more focus into his music (C) to understand that people have the right to an opinion, and removing comments positive or negative towards you is again just petty.

MJ Hibbett here: AMAZING MYSTERY TIME! How does this person, unallied with any band, know I deleted any comments? And why does it feature the same "joke" for their name as one of the comments I deleted? How can it directly quote what the Other Validators emailed to me, and repeat EXACTLY what three of the deleted comments said? And why does it come from the same IP address as ALL the previous comments (under different names, claiming to be different people) did?!?

If this person works in the music industry, maybe they should consider becoming a SPY instead, they obviously have a talent for it!

posted 4/1/2013 by mj hibbert (TM)......;-)

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