Universal threaten to sue tribute bands over Abba trademark

By | Published on Monday 7 June 2010

Universal Music are reportedly threatening to sue fifteen Abba tribute acts over allegations the cover bands infringe the major label’s intellectual property. The dispute seems to centre on the Abba trademark, owned by Universal subsidiary Polar Music, and therefore only affects those tribute acts who perform using names that contain the Abba word, meaning the best known tribute combo for the Swedish pop foursome, Bjorn Again, won’t be affected.

Assuming the reports are true, the legal action does seem rather short-sighted on Universal’s part. While Polar Music sits within Universal’s recordings business, the major’s sister publishing company administers much of the Abba catalogue so therefore earns good money every time a tribute act takes to the stage. What the major can gain by stopping said tribute acts using the Abba name itself isn’t really clear, and presumably few tribute bands  have access to the sort of money that would make some sort of trademark franchise system viable.

It’s possible Universal’s new found interest in protecting the Abba name is linked to plans to launch a range of new merchandise based around the former Swedish pop troupe. Certainly Polar are in the process of registering the Abba name under a bunch of trademark categories other than music and advertising. It may be the sale of merchandise by tribute acts using the Abba moniker that is pissing off Universal bigwigs more than those groups performing under variations of that name.