Thursday, January 24, 2008

Company refiles trademark infringement lawsuits against two companies over Bob Marley name and likeness

While I’m not really a fan of the late reggae musician Robert Nesta Marley (aka Bob Marley), a lot of people are and this fame has made the late musician’s name and likeness very valuable to his heirs.

A company named Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, Ltd. (“Fifty-Six Hope Road”), a Bahamas International Business Company which is owned and operated by Marley’s 12 children, owns the intellectual property rights to Bob Marley’s name and likeness.

Fifty-Six Hope Road obtained a federal trademark registration for the mark BOB MARLEY on May 16, 2000 for eleven classes of goods, including T-shirts, jewelry, greeting cards, wallets, mugs, and smoking pipes. Fifty-Six Hope Road entered into a licensing agreement with Zion Rootswear LLC (“Zion”), a Florida corporation, granting Zion an exclusive worldwide license to use the Bob Marley intellectual property on various goods.

The companies have a history of rigorously enforcing these trademark rights. See article here about one past trademark infringement lawsuit and here about the well-publicized dispute with Verizon over Marley-based ringtones.

In the last week, the companies have filed two new trademark infringement lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada going after a Canadian jeans company and a movie poster company.

The first suit was filed on January 18, 2008 by Fifty-Six Hope Road and Zion against Fame Jeans, Inc. and Charles Freidman . See Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, Ltd. et al v. Fame Jeans, Inc. et al, Case No. 08-CV-00082 (D. Nev.). The second suit was filed on January 23, 2008, by Fifty-Six Hope Road and Zion against A.V.E.L.A., Inc. (the Art and Vintage Entertainment Licensing Agency) and Leo Valencia. See Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, Ltd. et al v. A.V.E.L.A., Inc. et al, Case No. 08-CV-00105 (D. Nev.).

Without reading the complaints, the lawsuits most likely allege registered trademark infringement (15 U.S.C. §1114), federal trademark infringement and unfair competition (15 U.S.C. §1125(a)), and common law trademark infringement arising from defendants' sale of clothing and posters displaying Marley’s name (a registered trademark), picture, or some other likeness.

One strange aspect about these new lawsuits is that the defendants in these two lawsuits are the same named defendants from a previous trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Fifty-Six Hope Road and Zion on February 14, 2007. See Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, Ltd. et al v. Fame Jeans et al, Case No. 07-CV-00194 (D. Nev.). That case, however, was voluntarily dismissed by Fifty-Six Hope Road and Zion on November 29, 2007. I'm sure the companies had their reasons for dismissing the prior suits and refiling them separately.