Jackson 5 Tribute Band Trademark Cancelled

Wonderbread 5 v. Gilles, TTAB No. 92052150 (TTAB 6/30/2015).

This case involves a dispute about who owns the band’s name in the wake of the departure of one of the band’s five members.  The band, a Jackson 5 tribute band, filed a petition to cancel a trademark registration obtained by a former member who filed the application for the registration only 3 days after he was fired from the band.  The court found by a preponderance of the evidence that the mark WONDERBREAD 5 was not “personal” to the applicant/departing-band-member (Gilles), or for that matter, any of the band members as individual musicians.  Rather, the mark signified the collective “style and quality” of the group, and the partnership, not the departing band member, controlled those qualities. That is to say, the mark WONDERBREAD 5 identified a Jackson 5 tribute band, not a “particular performer combination.”  Thus, because the consuming public did not associate the mark with a particular member (but rather, a style of tribute band), the applicant did not "own" the mark when he applied for it.  The application was therefore void ab initio, and the registration was cancelled.

Hard Rock's CAVERN CLUB Trademark Not Subject To Cancellation

Cavern City Tours Ltd. v. Hard Rock Cafe Int'l (USA), Inc., No. 6:12-cv-1410 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 31, 2014).

The Court held that the TTAB properly dismissed the the petition of plaintiff, who owns the mark THE CAVERN CLUB in the UK and other jurisdictions, to cancel Hard Rock Cafe's CAVERN CLUB mark in the USA.  "The Cavern Club" was a venue where the Beatles performed hundreds of times early in their career.

First, the Court found that Hard Rock did not knowingly make false statements in their application for the CAVERN CLUB mark concerning the use of the mark by other people (like plaintiff), and rejected plaintiff's argument to adopt a "willful blindness" standard.  The Court found that plaintiff failed to submit sufficient evidence to prove that Hard Rock was aware of Plaintiff's mark; further, even if Hard Rock did have knowledge of plaintiff's use of the mark, the Court found that Hard Rock had reasonable basis to believe that plaintiff did not have a superior right to use the mark in commerce.

Second, the Court found that Hard Rock's mark did not falsely suggest a connection with plaintiff in violation of section 2(a) of the Lanham Act.  "The mere fact that Plaintiff's name has a word in common with the CAVERN CLUB does not establish that Plaintiff's identity or persona is the CAVERN CLUB."  Similarly, plaintiff's lease and operation of a "new" Cavern Club venue did not establish that Plaintiff's persona or identity is the CAVERN CLUB.  Moreover, Plaintiff did not establish that the CAVERN CLUB mark points uniquely and unmistakably to Plaintiff.  To the contrary, the evidence links the CAVERN CLUB with the original venue, which was demolished in 1973; thus, it did not point uniquely to Plaintiff.  Accordingly, Hard Rock was granted summary judgment dismissing the case.

Beatles Tribute Band Trademark Registration Denied For Entertainment Services Because Specimen Did Not Show Live Performance

In re Titan Music, Inc., Serial No. 77344197 (TTAB Aug. 20, 2014).

Trademark applicant "Titan," a Beatles cover band, filed an application to register the mark FAB AGAIN for “entertainment in the nature of visual and audio performances, namely, musical band, rock group, gymnastic, dance, and ballet performances” in International Class 41.  Registration was denied, and the TTAB affirmed the denial.

The issue with registration was was the specimens provided by the applicant, which were print-outs from CDBaby and Last.fm.  The TTAB found:
Applicant’s specimens may show use of the mark on or in connection with goods (compact discs featuring music) or services (streaming of audio material via a global computer network); however, the specimens do not show use of the mark in connection with “entertainment in the nature of visual and audio performances, namely, musical band, rock group, gymnastic, dance, and ballet performances.” It is not enough for Applicant to be a provider of services; Applicant also must have used the mark to identify the identified services for which registration is sought.  [Cit. om.] As indicated above, for entertainment services such as those rendered by a musical band, the performance must be live. And while a performance can be recorded, the recording is not itself a performance.
This decision should not be read as finding that the mark FAB AGAIN, as actually used on the specimens, would not be perceived by potential purchasers as a trademark (for compact discs featuring music) or a service mark (for streaming of audio material via a global computer network). The problem is that the specimens of record fail to show use of the mark FAB AGAIN in connection with the services identified in the application, that is, “entertainment in the nature of visual and audio performances, namely, musical band, rock group, gymnastic, dance, and ballet performances.”

Band Refused Trademark Registration For Name "The Slants"

In re Simon Shiao Tam, Serial No. 85472044 (TTAB Sep. 26, 2013).

A band sought to register its name "The Slants" with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  Registration was refused under Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), on the ground that applicant’s mark “consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols under Trademark Act Section 2(a).”  The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) affirmed the examining attorney's refusal to register.

The TTAB found, "Thus, it is abundantly clear from the record not only that THE SLANTS, used for the identified services, would have the 'likely meaning' of people of Asian descent but also that such meaning has been so perceived and has prompted significant responses by prospective attendees or hosts of the band’s performances. The evidence of public perception of the meaning of THE SLANTS, as used in connection with applicant’s services, shows that meaning to be a derogatory reference to people of Asian descent."  The TTAB also rejected the applicant's argument that it had "good intentions" (e.g., taking ownership of a disparaging term): "the fact that applicant has good intentions with its use of the term does not obviate the fact that a substantial composite of the referenced group find the term objectionable".  Lastly, the TTAB found that the record established that the slang term “slant” or its plural “slants,” when used to indicate
ethnicity, is disparaging to a substantial composite of the referenced group.

Trademark Denied; YouTube Clip Not Proper Specimen

In re Rogowski, 2012 ILRC 3251 (TTAB Dec. 11, 2012).

The TTAB affirmed a refusal to register a mark because a screen shot of a YouTube webpage that showed a trademark applicant playing music did not clearly indicate that the video could be downloaded, and thus the specimen failed to show that the mark was “used in commerce.”

As found by the TTAB:


The submitted specimen, however, does not show the required correspondence between the mark and the identified goods being offered for sale or transport in commerce. We acknowledge the advent and certainly the trend of music being offered in downloadable formats or the equivalent thereof in lieu of the traditional trade channels for tangible sound recordings, e.g., CDs being sold via retail or online stores. But we nonetheless find dispositive that applicant's specimen does not include a “download” or similar link to put the consumer on notice that the identified goods (“audio recordings featuring music”) are indeed available for download or the equivalent thereof. We view this failing as being similar to on-line retailing situations in which a webpage specimen fails to show a means for ordering the goods or service. See, e.g., In re Osterberg, 83 USPQ2d 1220, 1224 (TTAB 2007) (webpage specimen did not directly provide a means for ordering applicant's goods); In re Genitope Corp. 78 USPQ2d 1819, 1822 (TTAB 2006) (same). Cf. In re Dell Inc., 71 USPQ2d 1725, 1727 (TTAB 2004) (website specimen for downloadable computer software acceptable when it includes method to download, purchase or order the software). See also, In re Sones, 590 F.3d 1282, 93 USPQ2d 1118, 1124 (Fed. Cir. 2009) (“Relevant factors include, for example, whether Sones’ webpages have a ‘point of sale nature….’”) (citation omitted).

We further acknowledge applicant's intent and his assertion that viewers of his uploaded videos on YouTube may use third party software such as RealPlayer to record the audio portions of the videos and ultimately transfer this music file to an MP3 player or other devices and formats. However, on the record before us, in the absence of a “download” link or the equivalent thereof, applicant's specimen on its face fails to show use of his mark in commerce for the identified goods

Oh, Yoko - Petition to Cancel LENNON Mark

Oh, Yoko...

TMZ reports that "Lennon Murphy, a singer-songwriter whose band is called Lennon, has been sued by Yoko for 'tarnishment' of her widow's name [sic] and for 'fraudulently' registering the name as a trademark." However, it rather appears that Yoko Ono (as she herself clarified) filed a petition for cancellation with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board seeking to cancel Trademark Registration No. 2676604, based on Registration numbers 1769796 and 1488395 for the marks JOHN LENNON.



Petitioner claimed Murphy obtained her registration fraudulently, and that Murphy's mark dilutes and/or tarnishes her late husband's surname. Petitioner did not, however, make a section 2(d) likelihood of confusion claim in her petition (15 U.S.C. 1052). USPTO TTAB Cancellation number 92048785; filed 1/18/08.

The petition is unusual in certain respects. Whether the petitioner intended to bring a likelihood of confusion claim is unclear. When filing the petition to cancel electronically, petitioner did identify Section 2(d) as a cause, however the petition has no pleadings referring to likelihood of confusion.

Additionally, it is interesting that the substance of the fraud allegation is that applicant did not identify that her first name was Lennon. However that fact was disclosed in that she filed the application as an individual, in her own name, Lennon Murphy.

Lastly, according to TMZ, Murphy asserts that the band has a co-existence agreement to use the LENNON mark (Yoko gave her "blessing"), raising a possible acquiesence argument.

[Documents can be accessed via the USPTO Trademark website, by searching TESS for the above registration numbers and then clicking the TTAB tab.]