Prince's Trademark Legacy

Posted by Randy Michels on Apr 22, 2016 9:37:56 AM

Prince's Love Symbol

Like most people, I was shocked by the news of Prince's passing. I grew up in the '80's, and Prince's music was part of the soundtrack of my youth.

Obviously, Prince leaves behind an enormous musical legacy. He also leaves behind a few trademark lessons.

Click here for a free trademark assessment and learn your safety score

You may recall that Prince once changed his name to the "Love Symbol" shown above. That was no publicity stunt. In fact, the decision was prompted by legal maneuvering related to a contract dispute with his record label. At the time, Prince appeared in public with the word “slave” written on his cheek and gave the following statement:

The first step I have taken toward the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros.

“The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” wasted no time seeking federal trademark protection for the Love Symbol. He obtained four federal trademark registrations:

Prince continued using the Love Symbol until his publishing contract with Warner Bros. expired in 2000. After that, he returned to using “Prince” again. He continued using the symbol as a logo, and he even played a Love Symbol-shaped guitar.

The controversy over Prince’s name teaches two important lessons: (1) the failure to protect trademarks from day one can be a huge disaster for a musician (or anyone for that matter); and (2) you need to be sure that you own all the trademarks you are using (or that you are properly licensed).

About This Blog

From their office in a meat packing plant turned creative community, the lawyers at Trust Tree craft articles on the importance of trademarks and the power of branding. When you visit our blog, you can expect lots of content related to those topics. Unfortunately, you can also expect lots of memes, lame jokes, bad puns, and shoutouts to Nashville. The goal of our blog is to help you learn a few things about trademarks in the least painful way possible.

Subscribe to Email Updates