Taylor Swift Threatens To Sue Her Fans


I’m sure by now you’ve read about how Team Swift has been on a trademarking rampage, filing phrases from her most recent album such as “This Sick Beat” “Could Show You Incredible Things,” “Nice To Meet You. Where You Been” and “Party Like It’s 1989.” Fun fact, a trademark for “This Sick Beat” was filed specifically for “Non-medicated toiletries, skin soap, sun care products, luggage, disposable dinnerware and pot holders.” Hmm. Putting aside the obvious questions, can someone trademark a three word phrase that’s been, no doubt, uttered literally thousands of times in clubs across the world (answer: yes), and, what are non-medicated toiletries (answer: toilet paper?), Swift’s lawyers have started issuing cease and desist letters to Esty store owners and getting their stores shut down by the company.

“This Sick Beat” et al are not technically registered trademarks yet (still in the application process), but really, it doesn’t matter that the trademarks haven’t been granted. Taylor Swift has filed intent to use trademarks (not sure how she’s going to sell “This Sick Beat” disposable forks). And, technically, Swift’s camp has an obligation to aggressively defend their trademarks. If they don’t, they could lose em.

That being said, team Swift is going to have to prove that they are intending to sell “This Sick Beat” pot holders or will lose that specific mark (not to worry, she has 15 other categories to fall back on for “This Sick Beat”).

The uproar is happening in the handmade artist community on Etsy because these individuals (and the company) have been issued cease and desist letters from Camp Swift and in effect their stores have been shut down by Etsy.

A source close to Digital Music News explained that some of these stores were issued cease and desist letters for products that had absolutely nothing to do with Taylor Swift except that they included “Taylor Swift” amongst the store’s tags. Others selling “Shake It Off” mugs were shut down by team Swift even though “Shake It Off” is a registered trademark of other organizations – not Swift.

Mug from ManhattanStall on Etsy

It seems that Swift’s lawyers told their interns to go on Etsy, type in the words “Taylor Swift” and send out letters to absolutely everyone.

Etsy wouldn’t comment explicitly about these claims, but issued this statement:

“Because of privacy and legal concerns, we can’t verify specific information about who contacts us. However, I can share more information about our copyright and intellectual property policy:


When a seller opens a shop and lists an item on Etsy, they are agreeing to our terms of use, including trademark guidelines, and copyright and IP policy. We take intellectual property and copyright concerns very seriously, and we comply with the DMCA and remove items when we have proper notice. When we are notified about allegedly infringing material, we act swiftly and in compliance with our policy, which you can find here.”

As much as I’d like to Damn The Man… er Woman… Swift’s camp has some legal standing, but they took it way too far. Fine, if you’re seriously planning to sell “This Sick Beat” sun tan lotion, then issue the cease and desist notices explaining your intent to sell. But be a bit more discerning here. Do you realize who you are targeting? Taylor’s biggest fans! It’s not like Target is selling t-shirts with Taylor’s face on them in all 2,000 stores. These Etsy store owners are mostly moms who have daughters: Taylor’s target demo. The ones who have been to multiple T-swift concerts, were among the select few who purchased the 1989 deluxe package from Target, have bought lots of merch themselves and are most likely self-proclaimed “Swifties,” evangelizing Ms. Swift on the daily ™ .

It’s not just the media who is making a big deal out of this. I’ve spoken to some of these Etsy store owners and they’re pretty upset. An Etsy store owner/Swiftie told BuzzFeed:

“Fans like to see themselves as part of the artist’s story, however small. They want to contribute and be creative and have fun. These free, loving, creative minds are being stopped by the very artists who have inspired them.


Obviously an artist has a right to their art and people should respect that. But at the same time most people, like us, are trying to be respectful and contribute to the excitement that the artist brings into our lives.


When that is taken away, it leaves us with a bitter taste in our mouths. It feels as though we don’t matter, that our ideas and thoughts and creations never belonged to us in the first place. No matter how hard we worked. And for other fans who make art, I’m afraid that this is going to be the future.”

It’s a matter of education and forthrightness. The fact of the matter is, everything Swift’s lawyers are doing is on behalf of her and is a direct representation of her brand. So even though Taylor, herself, isn’t sending the notices and getting these stores removed, it’s as if she is. And her fans feel slighted by her.

Swift should have a sit down with her lawyers and explain that these are her fans and that if they want to go after major corporations making money off of her registered trademarks, fine, but leave her entrepreneurial artist fans alone. Especially if they aren’t actually infringing on any trademark they own! As for the artistic Swifties out there? I guess this time, ya’ll just need to Shake It Off ™ .

Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business, a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake


Photo is by Eva Renaldi from Flickr and used with the Creative Commons license. 

62 Responses

  1. Paul Resnikoff
    Paul Resnikoff

    Reminds me of the time that Gene Simmons (and I think other members of Kiss) decided to attend a Kiss Convention… to to serve legal papers, threaten the organizers, and shut it down. Imagine, Kiss’ life-long, most die-hard fans on the planet had their most amazing dream come true, an actual visit from Kiss! Then, they were served cease-and-desists.

    Fast-forward to the present, and I wonder what impact that’s had on the band’s following. Kiss enjoyed cult status long after their prime, I think it started in the 90s. Now, I hear their having problems filling venues.

    • Anonymous

      Self-respect never hurts — Kiss is the living proof of that.

      They’re just not interesting anymore. That’s why they can’t sell tickets.

      I’m sure it would help if they sued somebody.

      • Strap Catcher

        They had maybe 3 interesting songs. Period. They made no credible music after Detroit Rock City.

    • Allen D. Tate

      You hear incorrectly. They are still consistently filling venues. I saw them in Nashville in 2009 & 2014 and Bridgestone Arena was packed both times. As for the Detroit Convention you’re referring to, they raided the convention to recover old costumes and other memorabilia that was allegedly stolen.

  2. Anonymous

    Here’s an idea:

    Stop stealing other people’s IP.

    Do your own thing instead — so much more fun…

    • Vail, CO

      …says Taylor Swift’s legal counsel?

      Hey Taylor, wake up! you are actively alienating fans that would otherwise go to your shows 30 years from now. Your lawyers want billable hours so they cooked up this stupid scheme and are banking it big.

      This is the most short-sighted and stupid thing I have ever seen.

    • Anonymous

      So the phrase “this sick beat,” 3 words that have been used for decades, is now her IP because she put them in one of her songs?

      • Anonymous

        So “Apple” — a word that has been used for centuries — is now a trademark? 🙂

        What is the world coming to…

        • Anonymous

          Apple is the company’s name. Did Taylor change her name to “this sick beat”?

          • Anonymous

            Trademarks protect all kinds of IP that you can’t copyright — names, titles, short phrases — in addition to logos, design, etc…

    • Anonymous

      That’s right, because Taylor Swift actually came up with all by her self, and created the phrases : ” This sick beat ” , ” Shake it off ” , and ” Nice to meet you, where you been ” .

      Come on now…… is this seriously coming up…. I forgot no one has every said these phrases before her.
      This is disgusting, and disturbing. To hell with freedom of speech, especially lines that have been used for decades – Taylor Swift owns them now.


      • Michelle

        I agree. I was told by adults in my childhood to “shake it off” when someone was rude or hurtful, and I’m old enough to be Taylor’s mother. I think it’s bull crap that someone can “own” words. I just wrote a book…shall I say that all the words in it are mine and no one else is allowed to speak them??

  3. it's just me


    Trademarks and copyrights are entirely different things… this article uses both interchangeably. Trademarks are only as good as your constant vigilance and use.

    • ThomasG

      Wait.. where does the article mention copyright? I’m confused. The author was pretty clear this is only about trademarks.

      And did you miss the part:

      “Taylor Swift has filed intent to use trademarks…And, technically, Swift’s camp has an obligation to aggressively defend their trademarks. If they don’t, they could lose em.”

      • Matthew

        I originally read this through my RSS feed and the article stated,

        “Putting aside the obvious questions, can someone copyright a three word phrase that’s been, no doubt, uttered literally thousands of times in clubs across the world (answer: yes), and, what are non-medicated toiletries (answer: toilet paper?), Swift’s lawyers have started issuing cease and desist letters to Esty store owners and getting their stores shut down by the company.”

        Then I came to the website to make the same complaint, but they edited the article to,

        “Putting aside the obvious questions, can someone trademark a three word phrase that’s been, no doubt, uttered literally thousands of times in clubs across the world (answer: yes), and, what are non-medicated toiletries (answer: toilet paper?), Swift’s lawyers have started issuing cease and desist letters to Esty store owners and getting their stores shut down by the company.”

        • Anonymous

          “can someone copyright a three word phrase that’s been, no doubt, uttered literally thousands of times in clubs across the world (answer: yes)”

          Ouch! 🙂

  4. derby

    easily one of the top 3 most annoying artists out there in the world. i cringe when i see stories about her.

  5. Dry Roasted

    Prince should send a cease-and-desist and demand a 50% cut of every ‘Party Like It’s 1989’ royalty.

  6. jw

    As much as Taylor Swift is a phenomenon right now, you have to wonder how long it’s going to last. Traditionally, you have to be a really phenomenal singer to maintain a pop career as a woman past your 20’s… Ask Tiffany or Britney Spears, who were both once the hottest ticket going. If history serves, people will eventually begin to expect more (LGBT community excluded… they’ll carry the torch indefinitely.)

    She has her talents, & up until now she’s done a terrific job cultivating her fanbase, but this move makes me wonder if her team realizes that her schtick has an expiration date. The harsh reality is that she’s no Beyonce.

    • Anonymous

      Brittany Spears is nothing but a stripper, so comparing her to someone that can write a good tune is pretty silly.

    • Michelle

      Personally, I like her music a thousand times more than Beyonce’s. I really liked her as a person too, until I read about this. I disagree with the whole “I own these words” thing. (Unless you’re talking about a larger portion of a song, poem, book, etc.. Then it’s completely understandable.)

  7. ArrDee

    Okay, I’m not a huge t-swift fan but going back to the days of the Jonas brothers. People sold knock-off Jonas Brothers shirts everywhere. 90% of us still wanted the dramatically overpriced official albeit less creative shirt. If Taylors’ team sold things with their phrases they would still make a lot of money. People pay more for “official gear” Or here’s an idea, put some creative etsy people on your marketing team. This is ridiculous.

  8. Bandit

    I was unaware that someone could send a cease and desist based on an intent to use trademark filing. Etsy lawyers and Etsy users need to do some research and not bend over to Swifts attorneys C and D

    That being said, what is this nonsense about alienating fans? Those folks selling shake it off mugs are fans? They are there to make $ and that’s what trademark is all about.

    • Anonymous

      “Those folks selling shake it off mugs are fans? They are there to make $ and that’s what trademark is all about.”

      Indeed, don’t know how Ari got that ‘fan’ idea…

      You’re right about intended use, too. But these Etsy guys are just abusing Swift, and they know that her team would destroy them in court.

      That’s why they bend over.

  9. Bandit

    If you check out the buzzfeed article and see the original etsy postings you will see that the “fans” include pictures of Taylor Swift and images from Swifts 1989 CD promotional materialto sell their candles, mugs, pot holders and whatever. So for some this does involve copyright and right of publicity (look it up)

    Also, the only ITU filing for “shake it off” on the PTO website was for some company based in Virginia called Schoolbook Sun. Is that Swift’s company?

    Also Bath and Bidy Works owns “shake it off” for hand soap, so sorry Taylor your gonna have to but that one from them.

  10. Kerri

    This is a shame. This will cause irreversible damage to her reputation. It’s not like “The Walking Dead” who welcomes play on words for merchandise! There are T-Shirts for the “Terminus” Steak House and “Claimed” That come directly from the TV show but their creators realize that every bit of imitation is not making them lose money it’s Verifying their Brand. It spreads the word and turns the show from a Fandom to a Fan Frenzy!
    and eventually will increase the fan base.

    Because of what Taylor’s camp has done… Fans will be lost and Fans will move on. Nothing to see here but a Bitter young woman who didn’t get an Emmy this year! Perhaps this is why!

    Of course that just my “2cents”. wait… should I trademark that?

  11. Blahblahblah

    If we stop talking about her she will go away. It will be a slightly better world then.

  12. Christopher Hugan

    “Team Swift” is doing nothing more than any company would do to protect its brands.

  13. David

    Isn’t the issue here one of ‘passing off’, i.e. marketing products that might be interpreted as authorised Taylor Swift merchandise? According to the article, “some of these stores were issued cease and desist letters for products that had absolutely nothing to do with Taylor Swift except that they included “Taylor Swift” amongst the store’s tags”. That sounds to me like passing off, and I’m not surprised that Swift’s lawyers are onto it.

  14. Anonymous

    and bye bye Mcartneys cred and any respect built up for him, working with people like that, i spit on the ground people like kanye and his obedient troops slither…


    • soniquarium muzika

      I agree. I’ve been in the music business since the “Illegal” Ware House daz. One of my collegues, pushed a phrase “BE YOURSELF”. Tour, t-shirts and all. But did not “Patten or trade mark the phrase. This whole Music Business industry needs a SWIFT kick in the arse, no pun. I meet with SONY once, it was the worst experience ever. Talking to a bunch of Lawyers who knew nothing about Dance Music let alone Techno, talk as if they could re-create a whole movement with the stroke of a pen on some contracts. I walked. Wasn’t worth my time or the “Pennies” they wanted to render to me as a reward for becoming part of the Machine, that is defunkt.

    • Anonymous

      if i was Beck, i would have immediately smiled, exited the stage with a gracious opening arm and bow to kanye to give him the whole thing, walked over to Beyonce, kindly and graciously handed her the grammy, then i would have got on my knees and bowed numerous times, then i would have kissed her feet, then i would have begged for mercy and forgiveness from jigga, and then i would have just fucked off right out of the whole place, heiled a cab, straight to the ariport, and went home to do something important and spend the time with loved ones and people that give a damn and have respect….

      that is precisely and exactly what i would have done, immediately as soon as his first foot hit the stage to say something stupid…

      • Anonymous

        and then sent him the bill for every millisecond of my time and expenses after his oversized nike hit the stage…

  15. soniquarium muzika

    Not only am I going to produce a track called “This Slick Beat” feat FUK U SWIFT- I’m going to drop it during the MOVEMENT FEST and market the sht out of the track in the Techno scene, it wil be charted in the top 5 on beatport and if and When the “Suite And Tie” crowd of slick legal minds sends me a ceist and shut up order, I’m going to burn it live during a Boiler Room Tap’d set with Laurent Garnier as my co-act for the night.

    Piss off Pop world, your music is garbage is so is your idea of trying to “Trade” mark a phrase.

  16. Name2

    I think copyright holders should get used to the idea of partying like it’s 1789.

      • Name2

        I wanted to make a joke about partying like it’s 1789, and I did.

        Copyright, as you may know, is written into the Constitution.

        Which dropped in 1789.

  17. Des

    These are freakin PR campaigns just to keep her in the news…. and you guys buy it all the fuckin time…

  18. Versus

    Misleading headline.

    Anyone who steals your livelihood is not your “fan”.
    Don’t just alienate them, but damn right you should sue them.

  19. TaylorIcandoitbutyoucantSwift

    Her first hit single was called Tim McGraw and she never asked permission or paid Tim money for using his name for promotion.

  20. Anonymous

    yah sue your bread and butter don’t you have enough money already they have to steal them they aren’t worth paying for

  21. Anonymous

    One gets the sense that TS has become a favorite target.
    The sweet success story of this artist has left a bitter taste in the mouths of some.
    Re trademark cease and desist letters, these go out all the time 24/7 to the little guys.
    Merchandizing is often cited as a cool way to make more money at gigs.
    Also good advice is to focus on one’s own contribution to the craft.
    Why bother publicizing the efforts of other artists?
    Surely, you’ve not run out of groovy things to say about yourself!
    Get out there and perform, make some new tee shirts. Write a bitchin’ song about it.

  22. Sam

    Ok..let’s be real here for a moment. Exactly how much of a threat can a drunken group of Swifties be, anyway? That sounds about as scary as that time Bieber’s Big-Wheel Biker boys came to town. I mean, if it we’re for that ten year old with a stick..


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