Monday, April 2, 2012

When Stage Names Become Real Names

Dear Rich: I do stand-up comedy under a stage name, not my real name. In the beginning, that was good because I had a day job and wanted to keep my stand-up life separate. Now, I'm about to go into stand-up full time and  wondered about adopting my stage name as my real name. What's the best way to handle it? Someone told me that if I just use my stage name all the time and that if I keep using it instead of my real name, it eventually will become my real name. Or should I register my stage  name as a trademark? Wow, we wish that April Fool's Day didn't fall on a Sunday because we had a great gag question to use. We suppose we could have published on Sunday (like some enterprising pranksters) but in case you haven't noticed by our falling Google Analytics numbers, we've been publishing less because we'be been kind of swamped lately, what with new demanding occupational goals, a new series of Mad Men, and endless home repairs.
Right, you had a question. Back in the day, the "usage method" (consistent use of the new name) was a great way to change your moniker but in these indentity-fraud, post-9/11 days, the recommended approach is to change your name using a court procedure. Every state's law differs but usually the court procedure means filing a petition, or alternatively, getting a court order as part of some other proceeding such as divorce or citizenship actions. By the way, once you change your name in one state, that name will be effective throughout the U.S. (If you're interested in changing your name in California, we recommend How to Change Your Name in California.)
Should You Register Your Name as A Trademark? Registering your name as a trademark and changing your name are two different worlds. You would change your name primarily for legal purposes -- that is, so that your name would be used in all documentation and official paperwork. You would register your name as a trademark to exclude others from using a similar name for similar goods or services. We don't think trademark registration is essential for a performer, unless that performer is offering non entertainment services or products -- for example, as when a rapper lends his name to headphones. Someday it may be worth your while to register the name for entertainment services but until then you can invoke tort claims such as unfair competition or common law trademark claims against an interloper who tries to steal your good name.