Someone else is using my stage-name! What should I do?
If you are a performer and you find that someone has begun using a name which is the same or very similar to yours, the best thing to do is get a second opinion on the matter. Don’t wade in to unknown waters – don’t ride in on a high horse shouting about copyright, theft and the like it’s a theatrical business but no-one likes a drama queen ;p What may sound similar in one mind, might not match in an others. Many performers have needlessly opened up arguments over rhyming couplets or semantic puns and looked foolish in the process. Few performers are in a position where their stage name is recognisable as trademark to the degree that it would stand up under legal scrutiny.
However, having said all that, protecting your identity is important and if need be you should take polite action to resolve the matter. Contacting your name-sake to explain the predicament rather than complaining about it publicly on Facebook etc, is the first step toward a peaceful and dignified resolution. They may be unaware of the problem. They may have been using it longer than you realise. Secondly you can ask if there is another option to consider. It is in everyone’s interest to get along and have unique identities so be prepared to consider some change on your part too. Common sense and an ability to deal in fairness will be required.
Certain names will naturally sound alike and no one can lay claims to ownership of sounds or double-meanings but it is considered poor etiquette in the least, to ignore the effects of stepping on another’s toes. Aping an identity can be construed as ‘passing off’ which takes a person in to the legal mine fields of trademark infringement. Typically, registered trademarks have weight in these instances whereas unregistered marks often don’t. See the Intellectual Property Office for official guidelines and help on this matter. Also, if your stage name and persona are not already well known it will be difficult to justify your sole use of the particular name. Rarely will a performer be so established as to warrant legal proceedings over branding issues.
How do I choose a ‘burlesque name’ to perform under?
Choosing a name can be tricky and performers typically go through two or three versions of a name before settling. It’s a good idea to let it grow organically – try something which you feel suits you and then ask others to help tweak it.
Be careful what you pick as certain names will ‘pigeon hole’ you and once your name is established it is not advisable to change it. If there is any possibility that you might like to expand in to other genres, be sure your stage name allows for this.
Make sure your name is not misleading. Potential bookers need to understand what they will get when they book you – certain names will imply you have specialized skills or abilities i.e. ‘Trinny Trapeze’ would imply trapeze skills and ‘Lady Tease’ would imply strip-tease skills, etc. The most memorable names are often puns, alliterative or onomatopoeic, so take your time over it. In the spirit of burlesque, names which are puns or evoke double-entendre are highly appropriate and attractive.
It is also important to avoid choosing a name that could be confused with another already in use. Established performers can be upset by new performers using similar sounding, meaning or even the same name which is confusingly similar. This is understandable and should be avoided. It benefits no-one to have confusion between identities. You may also be infringing on a registered trademark in some cases, which can lead to criminal prosecution in extreme circumstances. To help avoid clashes, do be sure to do your research. Perhaps start with our Performer Directory – the MoB Speakeasy – to ensure that nobody else listed is already using it or a confusingly similar one; also perform a search on the internet of your intended name including variations in spelling and then perhaps also ask on our forums too.
Certain semantic and phonic clashes are inevitable but most can be avoided by not using obvious clichés and common place names and words which are frequently found in the genre’s lexicon. Marketing Tip: Using commonly used names and words would also make it difficult for internet search engines to pick your name out from all the other possible references too.