A band contemplating a serious career in the business would be well advised to take the necessary steps to protect its name by obtaining trademark protection. That way, the act will not only be secure in knowing that it has acquired the right to the name, but also the artist will not be sued for infringing someone else's name.
A name used for entertainment services is actually known as a service mark. Although a service mark is akin to a trademark and is governed by the same law, a service mark is used to identify services offered to the public (e.g., live performances by a group). A trademark, however, distinguishes symbols used on tangible physical goods (e.g., a record or merchandise displaying a group name). Neither of the above should be confused with a copyright which instead protects works such as songs and sound recordings.
In the United States, as opposed to some other foreign countries, rights in a group name are usually created by use of the name, not registration. Therefore, the act must actively perform under its name, advertise under its name, and sell product bearing its name to the public. Nonetheless, it is still advisable to register the service mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C. This not only allows the use of the (R) symbol which gives notice to the public of your rights, it also will allow an artist to get an injunction and collect damages.
[part 2 next time]
Ben McLane Esq