From Abba to ZZ Top, all the good names are taken.
Between takes in a recording studio, Mr. Jones brainstormed about names with his new band mates, including former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, then checked them online. Their first choice, Caligula, turned up at least seven acts named after the decadent Roman emperor, including a defunct techno outfit from Australia. Eventually the rockers decided on Them Crooked Vultures. The words held no special meaning.
"Every other name is taken," Mr. Jones explains. "Think of a great band name and Google it, and you'll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page."
The last decade's digital revolution not only transformed the way people listen to music, it changed the way bands establish identities. In the past, identically named acts often carved out livings in separate regions, oblivious or indifferent to one another. Now, it takes only moments for a musician to create an online profile and upload songs, which can potentially reach listeners around the world.
Lawyers say that has raised the stakes in trademark disputes, which almost always hinge on which band first used the name commercially, and where.
"If 37 people in California logged on to your MySpace page last month, you can argue that you provide goods or services in California," even if you're a Connecticut band who hasn't released an album or toured out of state, says Atlanta lawyer Joel R. Feldman of Greenberg Traurig LLP.