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Trademarks in the music industry: Guns N’ Roses files lawsuit against Texas Gun Shop

American rock band Guns N’ Roses has sued a company that runs an online gun store named Texas Guns and Roses, stating that the weapon retailer appropriated its name unjustly. Besides serving as a vital brand asset for every business, trademark registration is especially important for musicians and bands.

By

Igor Demcak

Details of the case

In December 2022, Guns N' Roses sued an online gun store called Texas Guns And Roses, alleging that the name of the store's website is "confusingly similar" to that of the legendary rock band. Texas Guns And Roses sells firearms and metal gun safes along with flowers and is operated by Jersey Village Florist. The Texas store filed an application to register the trademark TEXAS GUNS AND ROSES.COM & Design in October 2014 and successfully registered it in 2016. According to the legal statement from Guns N' Roses, the store has not responded to the cease-and-desist letters sent to them in February and May of 2020.

Since its formation, Guns N' Roses has achieved national and international renown as one of the greatest and most commercially and critically successful bands of all time. Their debut studio album, "Appetite for Destruction", was released in 1987. On the strength of its famous and iconic songs, including "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine," and "Paradise City," "Appetite for Destruction" reached number one on the Billboard 200, Billboard magazine's chart ranking the 200 best-selling albums in the United States, in 1988. Since its release, "Appetite for Destruction" has sold at least 30 million copies worldwide.

Guns N' Roses has also successfully offered to sell and sold a variety of "Guns N' Roses"-branded products to consumers. This includes, but is not limited to, clothing, slot machines, protective face masks, furniture, hats, patches, stickers, buttons, glassware, watches, backpacks, and bandannas, an item uniquely associated with the band and its co-founder and lead singer Axl Rose, who has famously worn bandannas for decades. The band is the owner of federal trademark registrations of the trademark GUNS N' ROSES issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the following trademark classes:

  • Class 9: Prerecorded video and audio tapes, prerecorded phonograph records and prerecorded compact discs, all featuring music.

  • Class 41: Entertainment services, namely, performances by a musical group.

  • Class 25: Clothing, namely, T-shirts, shirts, hats, caps, bandannas, sweatpants, and thermal shirts

In order to maintain its reputation, the band has policed unauthorized uses of the GUNS N' ROSES trademark, sending cease and desist letters, instituting proceedings before the USPTO's Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (TTAB), and filing lawsuits for trademark infringement.

According to the details of the recent lawsuit, the Texas gun store selected and adopted their Guns N' Roses trademark for the purpose of confusing consumers into believing that it was connected or associated with the band. The claim is supported by the fact that the gun store did not attempt to register the trademark for any goods or services related to flowers, and does not prominently market flowers for sale on its website. Guns N' Roses is asking Texas Guns And Roses to change its name and pay damages for the alleged trademark infringement.

Importance of trademarks in the music industry

Branding is essential for musicians and artists, as it helps them build and sustain their reputation in the mind of fans. Every public figure has a personal brand to them, which communicates a certain level of trust and familiarity to consumers. Protecting the uniqueness of this vital asset should be a priority of every brand owner. Trademark registration offers an effective mechanism for ensuring that nobody is using brand assets of established brands in an unauthorised way.

Trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one company from the goods or services of other companies. It can be a name, logo, slogan, or other types of brand elements. In practical terms, trademarks are closely connected to branding as it is often the visual element alongside the name of a brand that represents the trademark distinguishing the company's product and service offerings from those of competitors. By means of owning trademarks, musicians have an exclusive right to use the words and phrases when used in association or collaboration with their brand. Therefore, it is essential for artists to know their intellectual property rights and have the means to protect goods and services associated with their name. Taylor Swift is one of the many artists that successfully use trademark law principles as a strategy to further brand and commercialise their song lyrics.

Trademarks are highly important assets in the music industry. It is generally recommended that bands already decide before their commercial success who owns the rights to the band's name and logo and register them as trademarks for relevant goods and services in relevant countries. The next important step would be to get a legal opinion about the overall eligibility of the trademark before attempting to register it. In Trama, we offer a free lawyer's check with a 24-hour response guarantee that evaluates the distinctiveness of your trademark and other criteria necessary for a successful registration.

Igor Demcak
Igor Demcak
Trademark Attorney

Founder & CEO of Trama

7 year experience in IP protection

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