Iron Maiden were originally founded by bassist and songwriter Steve Harris in 1975, but the English heavy metal giants are continuing to tour and release new material to this day. The group recently hit the headlines in the US for another reason, after it filed a lawsuit in in Illinois against the unauthorised use of the ‘Iron Maiden’ brand on the internet.

In the lawsuit filed on 23 January, the band cite infringement both of the Iron Maiden name and band logo, both protected as trademarks. The targets of its ire are a number of web shops, which are selling counterfeit merchandise while presenting themselves as authorised retailers in order to trade on the group’s name and reputation.

The band has its own web shop, which sells a range of genuine branded items of merchandise. The quality of these goods are closed monitored, according to the lawsuit; therefore, the authorised goods being sold elsewhere harm the goodwill and the reputation of the band by delivering products of a lower quality.

Iron Maiden has demanded that the infringing web shops cease selling products bearing the name of the brand, transfer the domain names, and pay their profits or US$2 million in damages.

The value of a name

As we have written previously (‘For those about to rock: don’t forget about trademarks’), a band name can be a valuable brand asset, but also the source of much dispute. New artists or groups are generally more focused on making music than IP ownership; however, alongside success also comes the risk that your name may be used by others without your permission. Merchandise, licensing and endorsement are big business these days and with such potentially high revenues at stake, it’s wise to take legal advice before the band becomes popular and big money becomes involved.

Taking the necessary steps at the start – clearing the name, registering it and clarifying ownership – is crucial if a group is to ensure the use of the name without risk of infringement or arguments between band members. Most importantly, it leaves the band free to do what it really wants to do: create music.