Taylor Swift's brand strategy: song lyrics as trademarks

Immensely famous pop star Taylor Swift does not only hold countless number of awards and musical praise, but also an impressive portfolio of trademarks. As she continues to trademark her most popular phrases, she ensures the continuous growth of her brand and her legacy.


Jan Buza

With decades of albums, tours, and awards, American singer-songwriter and record producer, Taylor Swift, has become one of the most popular and acclaimed singers of our times. As of today, Swift sold over 25 million albums and over 96 million singles in the U.S. alone. With over 170 million records sold worldwide, Taylor Swift is one of the most successful recording artists of the last two decades.

Taylor currently has 9 studio albums — Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014) and Reputation (2017), Lover (2019), Folklore (2020) and Evermore (2020). Her music centers on the concept of romance, covering a myriad of nuanced emotions that appear to be both very personal to Swift herself and simultaneously relatable to her worldwide audience. What many people don’t realize is that Swift is not only a talented songwriter, but also a smart businesswoman with an ambitious trademark strategy.

Why trademark song lyrics?

Taylor Swift doesn’t have copyright in the word and she doesn’t own the word or phrase. While copyright law is extremely important for musicians, it does not guard against fans or retailers taking catchy lyrics or concepts and profiting off of them. By means of owning trademarks, however, Swift has an exclusive right to use the words and phrases when used in association or collaboration with her brand. Taylor Swift’s application of trademark law principles as a strategy to further brand and commercialize her song lyrics. Although not all of her applications succeeded, a sizable number of them were approved by the USPTO, making Swift perhaps the first musician to trademark lyrics

What has Taylor Swift trademarked?

To be eligible for trademark protection, a trademark must meet two basic requirements: (1) it must be in use in commerce and (2) it must be distinctive. That means Swift is allowed to trademark a phrase if she can prove that she’s profiting from it being associated with her personal brand which makes it unique.

As of right now, Taylor Swift has he filed over 350 trademark applications, amongst some of them:

  • ‘Nice to meet you, where you been?’ and ‘This sick beat’ - song lyrics on Taylor’s 1989 album.  

  • ‘Blank Space’, ‘Players gonna play’, ‘Shake it off’, ‘And I’ll write your name’, ‘A girl named girl’ (a novel Taylor penned when she was young), ‘T.S. 1989’, ‘The 1989 World Tour’ and ‘Party like it’s 1989’.

  • Even the names of her cats - “Meredith & Olivia Swift”, “Meredith, Olivia & Benjamin Swift” have been successfully trademarked.

Lesson for other pop stars 

Through understanding the importance of trademarks, Taylor Swift acutely recognizes the need to protect her brand and reputation. Other artists should follow Swift’s lead and seek to trademark any lyrics or phrases they popularized. While trademarks might not be that crucial to Swift’s profitability, for less well-known artists it is essential to know their intellectual property rights and have the means to protect their merchandise. 

Jan Buza
Jan Buza

Product Mind

Helped scale portfolio firms for a VC fund

CEMS Prague

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