On A Trademark Rampage, Taylor Swift Targets Etsy Sellers

Your Etsy shop is cute and all, but Taylor Swift is coming for you.

On A Trademark Rampage, Taylor Swift Targets Etsy Sellers
[Photo: Flickr user Eva Rinaldi]

If you’re thinking of DIY’ing up some cute Taylor Swift-themed gift ideas for your Etsy shop, you might want to pump your brakes. The pop star turned intellectual property warrior may still be awaiting approval on her latest list of trademarks, but that isn’t stopping her lawyers from going after Etsy sellers for infringing on the trademarks she already owns.


Etsy shop owners who pedal unofficial, Swift-inspired goods have been seeing a spike in cease and desist letters, according to BuzzFeed. While the number of takedown requests hasn’t been revealed, BuzzFeed notes that only three of the 15 Swift-themed gifts included in an earlier listicle of theirs are still available on Etsy. Sure, that’s not a scientifically valid sample, but it’s a reasonably reliable sign that Swift’s lawyers have been on a tear lately.

The items in question include a T-shirt that includes a lyric from a Taylor Swift song, which is verboten thanks to the Swift empire’s aggressive trademarking of phrases used in her songs. Most recently, Swift’s lawyers filed for trademarks on phrases from her most recent album, including “party like it’s 1989” and “this sick beat,” a surprisingly generic phrase that Taylor Swift most certainly did not coin.

Other recently trademarked phrases include “Nice to meet you. Where you been?” and the sentence fragment “could show you incredible things.”

Once approved, this latest collection of terminology will be added to the growing list of phrases and imagery that cannot legally be used on third-party merchandise. Naturally, her name, logos, and official imagery are trademarked, but her legal claim to phrases that happen to be used in songs has some people scratching their heads.

These intellectual property land grabs are part of the multiplatinum mega-star’s efforts to keep her image and music under lock and key across the Internet. Most headline-grabbingly of all, Swift pulled her entire catalog from Spotify in November, citing the service’s ever-controversial royalty payment system. Specifically, Swift objects to Spotify’s free, ad-supported (and less lucrative) tier, something record labels are as well. The loss of Swift’s catalog appeared to be a blow for Spotify, although it didn’t stop the service from hitting the 60-million-user milestone last month.

Streaming services are one thing. Policing the Internet for every unauthorized use of an artist’s image and words is quite another. But Taylor Swift is one of the most successful pop stars on the planet, and her empire can certainly afford to pursue the seemingly insurmountable task–even if it means ruining that killer bridal shower gift idea you had.

About the author

John Paul Titlow is a writer at Fast Company focused on music and technology, among other things.