I was intrigued by this story today.
Established Belfast-based band Before Machines have been contacted by another band who have asked them to change their name because it "is a bit close to" theirs. The other band have released nothing and played no gigs, whereas Before Machines have three releases with a debut album on the way, and a varied gig history. So what's the name of the new band? After Machines. That's right, it has the word "machines" in it.
As any Spotify or Last.fm user will tell you, bands with similar (and by similar I actually mean identical!) names crop up all the time. Hefner, ESG, Nirvana, Health, Bridge and Tunnel are some examples off the top of my head.
The reason for this is that, despite what After Machines claim in their correspondence, you cannot copyright a name. There may be some confusion over this as there has been a lot of talk about Olympic trade mark laws this year, and some people think the authorities have copyrighted some words when they have actually trademarked them.
I was trying to think of a precedent for a this story and I cannot. Imagine if My Bloody Valentine contacted Bullet for My Valentine when they started, and what about the Black Keys, the Black Angels and Black Lips? It's nonsense really. Good thing Simple Machines have split up though...