A stage name is an alias or pseudonym used by musicians, bands, actors, models, DJs, radio presenters, designers or other performer or “show business” personalities, although some people use their real name as a stage name as well.
The main purpose of having a stage name is to stand out amongst the crowd and/or express a concept, but legally the aim is to have the exclusive right to use it.
In Mexico, INDAUTOR Instituto Nacional del Derecho de Autor is the copyright office in charge of protecting stage names through the acquisition of an official certificate, the Reservation of the Right to Exclusive Usage (Reserva de Derechos al Uso Exlcusivo).
The first step is to apply for a Prior Opinion (Dictamen Previo) that can be summarised as a search of all stage names previously granted. If there are no identical or similar stage names, to the one you wish to protect, then you will receive a positive opinion, and you can proceed to file an application for a Rights Reserval for the exclusive usage of the stage name. If you receive a negative opinion this means that there is an artist or band already in existence that has an identical or similar stage name to your client’s name. The applicant receives a notification stating all of the related information such as: the protected stage name, the information regarding the ownership, the registration number, the date on which the Certificate was granted and the legal grounds to reject the application.
However, since the prior opinion is not mandatory, you can also apply for the Reservation of the Right to Exclusive Usage Certificate any time but it would be prudent to assess the risk of infringing another party’s stage name, and to identify possible stage names which could be cited by the copyright office. For example, you can file an application to protect a stage name when this name is very unusual or the artist or band has a well-known professional career.
The Reservation of the Right to Exclusive Usage is considered to be a federal registration and lasts for 5 years, with an option to renew for the same period of time. Renewal can be done one month prior to the expiration date or one month after.
It is very important to note that this certificate gives the artists the right to use the stage name, publicly perform and display their work in different fields such as, singing, acting, modeling etc… and is not restricted to one activity only.
Bear in mind that once the stage name is legally protected the artist must use it exactly as it was protected. Otherwise there is a risk of losing the exclusive rights to the name.
PROTECTING A STAGE NAME AS A SERVICE MARK
Mexican law also allows for the protection of a stage name as a service mark. You can perform a search and then file an application in Class 41, for example.
Although the Mexican trademark office IMPI and the copyright office INDAUTOR do not depend on each other, they are closely related due to the nature of the creations they protect.
For instance, industrial property law (Ley de Propiedad Industrial) states that a name will not be registered as a mark where it is previously protected by copyright law as a stage name.
As you can see, an artist can file an application to protect a stage name as a service mark, but also obtain a Reservation of the Right to Exclusive Usage Certificate any time. We suggest starting with the copyright office and then subsequently filing a trademark federal application.
If the artist or band has plans for expansion, that is to work in different countries promoting and selling their work, the best course of action is to protect the mark with an international application under the Madrid Agreement that allows you to protect the mark in a large number of countries. Or alternatively simply apply in every country in which protection is required.
There is no specific way to create a stage name, although over the internet we can find suggestions, and there is even a website and an App designed specifically to create a stage name. So creating a good stage name may require a lot of imagination.
Finally, we strongly recommend that you consult an intellectual property lawyer, who has the knowledge and experience to guide you through the legal procedures, and save you a lot of time and money.
Whether you are an experienced artist or you are beginning your professional career, protecting your name should be a priority, it is your identity, and it may be your most valuable intangible asset. Also a stage name, is one of the most powerful tools you have, to become a public figure.
Why is it ok to settle for the same name that other artists have, when you can invest a little bit of your time and get yourself known in a very distinctive way?
Rocío Robles Ruiz
Legal manager, IP Wisely, Mexico City