Monday, April 6, 2009

Bruce Lee Sues Ecko and Leo Valenia’s A.V.E.L.A. Over Clothing Using Lee’s Image

One of the things I like about trademark infringement complaints is the background story you get about famous individuals (albeit stated in lawyer legalese, which fortunately I can understand) – in this case, Bruce Lee.

On April 1, 2009, Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC (“BLE”) filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Marc Ecko Enterprises, A.V.E.L.A., Inc. and Leo Valencia in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. See Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC v. Marc Ecko Enterprises et al., Case No. 09-CV-00398 (S.D. Ind. April 1, 2009). A copy of the complaint can be downloaded here.

The complaint provides a nice history of the life of Bruce Lee –his childhood acting, his young days with martial arts and cha cha dancing, his acting career as “Kato” (on the TV show The Green Hornet), his mastery of martial arts that he would later develop into JEET KOON DO, and his famous martial arts films up through his final film, Enter the Dragon.

Bruce Lee’s family established the company Concord Moon LP to hold the exclusive rights to all commercial merchandising and related rights relating to the use of Lee’s name, his image likeness, persona, signature, mannerisms, distinctive appearance, sayings, voice, and photographs. Concord Moon also held the rights to three particular federal trademark registrations – for the mark BRUCE LEE (for clothing), the mark JEET KUNE DO® (for magazines), and the below logo (described as the “Core Logo” -- a logo that Lee developed sometime in 1964 to associate with Lee and his martial arts principles of “Using No Way as Way, Having No Limitation as Limitation”) registered in three different classes (martial arts instruction, jewelry and lapel pins, and achievement certificates and non-fiction martial arts books) and pending in another (clothing). A slightly different variation of the logo has also been registered.

On April 1, 2008, BLE was organized by Lee’s family to be the successor-in-interest to Concord Moon’s intellectual property rights.

Marc Ecko Enterprises (Ecko) is the “global fashion and lifestyle company” behind such clothing brands as *ecko unltd, Avirex, and Zoo York.

Apparently, BLE contacted Ecko regarding a t-shirt with a Marc Ecko label on it that had Lee’s image on it. Ecko wrote back to BLE stating that it had obtained a license to the use Lee’s image from A.V.E.L.A., Inc. (the Art and Vintage Entertainment Licensing Agency) (“AVELA”), which is owned by Valencia. Subsequently, BLE sent a cease and desist letter to AVELA and Valencia regarding their sale of t-shirts online and in Target Stores having Bruce Lee’s image thereon; however, neither AVELA or Valencia apparently replied.

BLE’s causes of action are for violation of Lee’s right of publicity under Indiana law (I.C. §32-36-1 et seq.), California law (Cal.Civ.Code §3344), and under common law; registered trademark infringement under 15 U.S.C. § 1114, federal unfair competition under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a); common law unfair competition; unjust enrichment; conversion under Indiana law (I.C. §35-43-4-3); deception under Indiana law (I.C. §35-43-5-3), and a claim for relief under Indiana Crime Victims' Act (Ind. Code §34-24-3-1) for BLE’s losses as the result of the Defendants’ conversion and deception.

Nostalgia Moment – one of my favorite computer games in my youth was Datasoft’s Bruce Lee (pictured below).

Old Fogey Moment – they just don't make games like they used to.

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