Can we still use our band name after the singer quit the band? 3 Answers as of August 06, 2013

I am in a band that has just broken up. Basically the singer quit the band to pursue another music path and said we could not use the name. There has been no contract made up and there is not a trademark on the name. He is not going to use it either. He just does'nt want us to have it. We have several months worth of shows booked under that name. The singer is threatening to take all the band members through civil court. Can he do this? He is very mad because we decided to keep the band going only after he offered to give us the name. This is such a mess. Any insight would be helpful.

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Lawyer for Indie Media
Lawyer for Indie Media | Sue Basko
It is a good time to consult with a music lawyer. I deal with these issues often. A lot depends if there was a written or oral band contract. Every band should have a lawyer write a band contract when they form, and it should include things such as what happens when a member quits. If the singer formed the band and came up with the name, or if the name is closely associated with him personally, he may have rights to it. A lot depends on what the name is, how it was chosen, if the band is perceived as a legal partnership, and other factors. There is also a question of whether his intention was to quit the band or if his intention was basically to fire the band, keep the name, and move on to being backed by a new band and use the same name. There are many factors, which is why it sounds like a good time to consult with a music lawyer.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 8/6/2013
Sebby Law Office
Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
If the former singer created the group and came up with the name, he probably has some claim to it. However, if you all got together simultaneously and agreed upon the name together, you all have some claim. Legally, a name can't be protected by either copyright or trademark.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 8/6/2013
Thompson & Associates LLC
Thompson & Associates LLC | Benjamin S. Thompson
If there is no registered trademark associated with the name, unless the name was his actual name or was solely his idea and he can show that it was his idea (and that it was not conceived as a work for hire assignment of the band itself (meaning the band would own any common law rights to the name)), he will have difficulty claiming any rights in and to the name. This does not mean, however, that he cannot sue you, it just means he is unlikely to win in court. You are best suited trying to mediate this dispute and keep your former colleague out of court. You could also have an attorney draft a brief letter explaining the law and telling him to back off.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 8/6/2013
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