Inside the Legal Fight Over FKA Twigs’ Stage Name
What's in a name? Plenty, as the ongoing -- and complex -- jockeying over these acts' stage monikers shows.
As FKA Twigs, acclaimed British singer Tahlia Barnett has one of music’s most memorable monikers. The question is: Will she be able to keep it?
In April 2014, just prior to her live American debut, the 27-year-old, then known simply as Twigs, was slapped with a lawsuit by Linda and Laura Good, who had been performing for two decades as The Twigs and hold a registered trademark. According to the documents in the case, Barnett first reached out to the Goods by email in June 2013, and later offered them $15,000 if they, or at least their creative handles, could co-exist.
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The two sides did not come to an agreement, and even though Barnett modified her professional name to FKA Twigs (FKA standing for “formerly known as”), the Goods still sought a temporary restraining order against her. The singer and her reps at Beggars Group opposed, telling the judge in part, “Bands have routinely used derivative names in order to avoid consumer confusion. Dinosaur became Dinosaur Jr., Blink became Blink-182, Suede became the London Suede, and the Charlatans became the Charlatans U.K. Here, FKA Twigs is clearly and easily distinguishable from The Twigs.”
The judge denied a restraining order because the motion was brought just hours before Barnett was scheduled to take the stage. The lawsuit was then withdrawn without prejudice, meaning the Goods have preserved the right to sue again.
“We have not agreed to this distinction,” Laura Good tells Billboard. “Since September 2013, [Barnett] has been on notice of her willful trademark violation.”
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Lisa Borodkin, attorney for the Goods, is slightly more conciliatory. She says her clients need to police their “Twigs” mark under trademark law and that the situation won’t be fully resolved unless Barnett enters a personal use agreement — presumably paying more than $15,000 for the rights to the trademark. (Reps for FKA Twigs did not respond to requests for comment by press time.)
On the other hand, as long as Barnett doesn’t encourage any abbreviation of the name, she seems likely to escape further legal action. But if the billing at her Coachella appearances in April is changed to read “FKA FKA Twigs,” the Goods may have stepped up their game.
This article first appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of Billboard.