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What can my startup learn from Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Kylie Minogue?

From Taylor Swift’s fiery defense of her Always more album name to the battle between Minogue and Jenner, pop culture royalty over the decades have seen use of a powerful yet affordable tool to protect their brands from competitive threats: registered trademarks.

Taylor Swift is a big fan of trademarks. The singer has filed dozens of trademarks in the US and internationally, with everything from her sayings to song lyrics and album titles falling under the protection of registered trademarks.

Most recent, the multi-Grammy winner faced a claim when Utah-based Evermore Park theme park said Swift had infringed on her trademark with her album Always more and associated merchandise.

The singer, who trademarked “Evermore” in 2020, hit back with a countersuit. Ultimately, both parties dismissed their respective claims, but not before Swift threatened the theme park with copyright infringement for playing her songs without a license.

Meanwhile, when reality TV turned billionaire beauty entrepreneur Kylie Jenner has applied to trademark her first name in the US, Aussie singing superstar and international legend, Kylie Minogue, took legal action to prevent Jenner from trademarking their shared name. The singer argued that she had been known by her first name for decades and already owned a number of Kylie-related trademarks in the US, as well as the website www.kylie.com

The matter was eventually settled out of court and Jenner’s trademark application was rejected.

“I’ve spent my whole life protecting my brand and building my brand, so it was just something that had to be done,” said the pop icon.

But why would this matter to a startup?

As starting entrepreneurs, we often underestimate how important it is to protect our brand and reputation in the market. While the success of a startup depends on several factors – everything from an innovative idea to hard work and dedication, ensuring that success and brand reputation depend on maintaining control of your intellectual property (IP) – and that’s where trademarks come in.

a trademark is a simple and effective way to protect your brand and gives you a legal way to take action if copycats show up. Registered trademarks aren’t just for big companies or celebrities.

Protecting your brand, product and service with a registered trademark can cost as little as $250. From application, the registration process in Australia takes several months, so it is important to consider your trademark protection early on in your startup journey.

By registering a trademark with IP Australia, you have the exclusive rights to use that trademark in Australia in the goods and services territories you select. This simple move can help protect you from copycats and build brand recognition.

Aussie example: Katie Perry vs Katy Perry

One Australian business owner who can confirm this firsthand is Katie Taylor. Taylor made the smart decision to trademark her sustainable clothing label, Katie Perry, in 2008. The designer, who goes by her maiden name, first launched her brand in 2006, selling her eco-friendly loungewear in Sydney’s market stalls.

Meanwhile, Katy Perry (whose legal name is Katheryn Hudson) launched a pop career all over the world with a series of hits, such as ‘I Kissed a Girl’ and ‘Firework’.

It was 2009 when Taylor received a cease and desist letter in the mail from the pop singer’s lawyers. It ordered her to stop acting under the name Katie Perry.

At the time, the US-based singer was considering launching a clothing label due to her successful music career and had applied to trademark the name Katy Perry in Australia. The pop star’s lawyers suggested that Taylor’s trademark of the same name was “misleading and deceptive”.

Fortunately, Taylor had a registered trademark to protect her brand.

What followed, Taylor described on her blog as a “David and Goliath Battle”. A battle that eventually ended in the federal courts in April 2023 as Taylor accused the pop singer of infringing her registered trademark by selling clothes on her Australian tours under the name Katy Perry.

Despite the singer’s considerable legal clout, judge Brigitte Markovic ruled in favor of Taylor, saying that US pop star company Kitty Purry had infringed Katie Perry’s registered trademark of the Australian designer by advertising and selling clothes during the 2014 Australian tour. Markovic ordered an injunction to restrain Kitty Purry from engaging in infringing conduct and pay further damages to the Australian fashion designer.

The judgment was a victory for small businesses and highlights the importance of registering a trademark.

Why you should consider brand protection for your startup

So if registering a trademark can provide valuable protection for your brand, why do only four per cent of small businesses and start-ups in Australia do it?

According to Lauren Stokoe, Venture Manager of IP Australia TM controller – a free tool that allows you to quickly and easily check the availability of a trademark – the reluctance boils down to three things: a lack of knowledge of what a trademark is, the perception that applications are expensive and time-consuming, and finally, that it is too late to register a trademark and that the trademark is no longer available.

Stokoe suggests that an IP strategy could be part of any startup’s business strategy. She encourages startups and entrepreneurs to a free brand check to see where they are.

“It’s an important factor in protecting your brand and your ideas, so it’s really about being informed and keeping your knowledge before it’s too late,” concludes Stokoe.

TM Checker makes it easier for small businesses to check if a trademark is available. See how TM controller to work.

This article is brought to you by Startup Daily in consultation with IP Australia.

This article is intended to provide general information about intellectual property and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as such.


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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