1. Money

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

Most Emailed Articles

How To Fill Out Form W-4

Points To Ponder - Three Part Harmony - Music Copyright
Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights in the Music World
Contents: Music Copyright
Part I Recording Music and Intellectual Property Rights for Performers - Music Copyright
The History of Musical Instruments
Back to Teen Dream Inventors
Other Patent Points To Ponder
A Patent for a President
Fingerprints of Commerce
The Art of Toys
Three Part Harmony
The Art of Photography
The House That Innovation Built
Colors of Innovation
Mothers of Invention
Inventing 101 for Students

Sheet Music Copyright

Mary had a little lamb." With these words, Thomas Edison started a technological revolution that continues today. The phonograph marked the beginning of the recording industry. He discovered it while doing research on sound waves for several other inventions, built a prototype, and was granted a patent in 1877. He went back to his work on the incandescent lamp until 1885, when he was challenged by Alexander Graham Bell, who was also working on the phonograph, for the "honor of the invention." 

Nipper…"His Master’s Voice"
Francis Barraud’s original painting, "His Master’s Voice," was a tribute to the Edison phonograph. Barraud thought that Edison would be so pleased with the painting that he would buy it and use it as his trademark. Edison turned him down flat. Barraud quickly painted over the Edison phonograph and replaced it with the Victor gramophone. Victor owners Eldridge Johnson and Emile Berliner loved it, and soon Nipper became the world-famous trademark of Victor and most recently RCA. 

Les Paul is responsible for inventing such musical advancements as sound-on-sound, the eight-track recorder, over-dubbing, the electronic reverb effect, and multi-track tape recording. His most famous invention is the solid body electric guitar first produced by Gibson in 1952. It is still being manufactured today. "Once I jammed my mother’s phonograph needle right into the top of a guitar and hooked it up. It worked! I had my first electric." - Les Paul 

Three kinds of intellectual property—patents, trademarks, and copyrights—work in harmony to protect the works of innovators and artists who give us listening pleasure. 

The Innovators
Patents give inventors the incentive to invent new and improve olds ways of creating, reproducing, or transmitting musical sound and provide an opportunity for inventors to profit from their innovations without unfair competition. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen invented a supporting device for stringed instruments that provides total freedom of the musician’s hands to create music in a whole new way. 

The Business
Trademarks identify to the consumer the different products and services of record companies, performers, and collateral products. What would you do if someone infringed on your trademark? You might do what Jimmy Buffett did to assert his rights to the term "Margaritaville," the name of one of his most popular songs. Chi-Chi’s, the popular restaurant chain, began using "Margaritaville" for a section of its restaurants. It also filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office for "Margaritaville" for restaurant services. 

Buffett opposed Chi-Chi’s application based on a section of the trademark statute which prohibits registration of a mark that falsely suggests an association with a known person. Buffett alleged that "Margaritaville" was his creation, that the public had come to associate the term with him, and that he had not given his consent to use of the term by others. His evidence included not only his famous song and the sales and publicity it generated, but also news articles referring to him as "Jimmy (Margaritaville) Buffett" and "The Poet of Margaritaville." 

Buffett won a summary judgment motion. He Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found that "Margaritaville" had indeed become so closely associated with Mr. Buffett, that customers would believe he was in some way associated with Chi-Chi’s services, when he was not. After that ruling, Chi-Chi’s and Buffett negotiated a license permitting Chi-Chi’s to use Buffett’s creation, "Margaritaville."

The Composers and Performers
Copyrights protect a work of authorship. There can be a different copyright on a musical composition and on a sound recording of the same song. The copyright in the sound recording protects the contributions of the performers and that of the record producer, and prevents anyone else from copying the recording. 

Who is your favorite composer? Your favorite performer? Are they the same person? Gloria Estefan holds four copyrights for "Cuts Both Ways:" words, music, sound recording, and video! Stevie Wonder wrote and recorded "I Just Called to Say I Love You." Bob Dylan composed and recorded many songs, but other performers also recorded his songs. Joan Baez holds copyrights for new arrangements of Dylan songs such as "You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere," "Drifter’s Escape," and "I dreamed I Saw St. Augustine," all which appear on Baez’ sound recording entitled, "Any Day Now—Songs of Bob Dylan." Stevie Wonder recorded Dylan’s "Blowin’ in the Wind."

Celebrity Names Sell Products
The use of celebrities to sell products and services is as old as advertising itself. Some musical performers have become so popular that they have gone beyond mere advertising. Their names and/or likenesses have been used as trademarks and service marks for a wide variety of products and services. 

The names of musical celebrities, particularly those popular with children and/or teenagers, often have served as trademarks for dolls bearing their likenesses. For example: Sonny and Cher - Donny and Marie - Michael Jackson - Gene Simmons (Kiss) - Hammer. Some musical performers have licenses their names to fragrance and cosmetic makers, like Julio Iglesias perfume. Historically, celebrities have been linked with restaurants. Sometimes, the names of musical performers have been used as restaurant names:

  • Kenny Roger’s Roasters (nation-wide) 
  • Chez LaBelle (Philadelphia nightclub/restaurant of Patti LaBelle )
  • B.B. King ’s Blues Club (Memphis, Tennessee nightclub) 
  • Jimmy Buffett ’s Margaritaville (Key West) 
  • Jimmy Dean , a singer who gained popularity in the 1960s with his hit records "Big Bad John" and "PT-109," later went into the food business with Jimmy Dean sausages.
  • Country singer George Jones lent his name to cat food.
  • Crooner Bing Crosby ’s ice cream was sold in the 1950s.
  • In the 1980s, Ol’ Blue Eyes ( Frank Sinatra ) was featured on a label for Sinatra tomato sauce. 
  • Mickey Gilley , after closing his famous Texas nightclub Gilley’s (setting for the movie Urban Cowboy), opened a club in Branson, Missouri, which also sells Gilley’s salsa and hot sauce.
Elvis! A phenomenon, pure and simple, in life and in dealth. During his lifetime, Elvis Presley (1935-1977) dominated American popular music from the moment he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. He became an enormously successful recording artist, a movie star, and later in life, a Las Vegas performer. Many products bearing his name and/or likeness were produced during his lifetime. However, after his death, his estate has earned millions in yearly income from licensing his name and by vigorously defending its right to control the use of his name and works. Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., currently owns over 70 trademark registrations for ELVIS, ELVIS PRESLEY, and other related marks in the United States and many more registrations worldwide. 

The Grammy Awards were first presented in 1958 to honor recording artists, songwriters, producers, and others affiliated with the recording industry. The current version of the Grammy statuette was redesigned in 1990 and is 3-4 times larger than the original award. The shape of the Grammy Award is a registered trademark of the National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences. Awards are now presented in 92 categories and over 1.5 billion people in over 180 countries see the television broadcast of the awards show.

Next page > Patent Points to Ponder: The Art of Photography

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Some of the materials found on these pages was provided courtesy of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

See More About

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.