Last week, the attorneys and staff at Gerben Law Firm celebrated Father’s Day with their families. Now, being trademark attorneys, they found some time to reflect on some dad-related intellectual property disputes.
Superman v. Super…dad?
Your dad may be capable of some superhuman feats (dad superpowers never sleep) but D.C. Comics doesn’t want your dad getting confused with the real deal. A t-shirt company Mad Engine, Inc. created a T-shirt to recognize super dads – by taking the Superman five-sided logo, and inserting the word ‘DAD’ in the middle instead of ‘S’. Well, DC Comics felt that the design was too close it to protected SUPERMAN intellectual property filed an infringement lawsuit with the clothing wholesaler. Mad Engine argue that the t-shirt is a parody of the Superman logo and unlikely to cause confusion or dilute the DC Comics trademark. Ultimately, a California judge disagreed with the parody argument, and allowed the lawsuit to continue forward and later settled.
The Situation versus The Confrontation
While the Jersey Shore may not have lasted, the success of the T.V. show was enough to pit father against son, and nothing says “I love you, son” like a lawsuit claiming a father was using his son for his personal gain. Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino, star of TV show “Jersey Shore”, sued his father, Frank Sorrentino, for copyright infringement and illegal advertising. On his website theconfrontationsite.com, The Situation alleged that his father made disparaging comments on his website, which were damaging his reputation as a result. They requested his website be taken down. He ultimately got his wish as his father’s website now advertises cleaning services in Japan.
Not Your Father’s or Your Granddaddy’s Rootbeer
While many children are chips off the old block, at least two fathers have inspired the names of alcoholic root-beer-flavored beverages. And now those two companies are fighting it out for the trademark rights. The company Small Town Brewery LLC makes an alcoholic root beer titled “Not Your Father’s Root Beer”, and they have filed lawsuits against other companies who have made alcoholic beverages with similar names. The first was against Sprecher Brewing Company Inc, who created their own alcoholic root beer, and used the phrase “Not Your Granddaddy’s Root Beer” on marketing materials. The cases have since been dismissed. The second company Small Town went after was West Coast Distillation Project, LLC, who attempted to apply for the mark “Not Your Grandfather’s Spirits” that was used in advertising on their website. As of today, that slogan is no longer present on their website and their mark has since been abandoned.
Daddy’s Junky Music Store and Big Daddy’s battle in Ohio.
Here’s a paternal-related trademark case where the defendant prevails. The company Daddy’s Junky Music Stores brought an infringement lawsuit against “Big Daddy’s Family Music Center”. Daddy’s Junky operates a chain of thirteen retail stores, and has a mail order business that has customers in Ohio, where Big Daddy’s is located. Ultimately, the judge sided with Big Daddy and dismissed Daddy’s Junky claims.
Mama versus Daddy
In the mother of all fights, Walker & Sons filed a lawsuit against Kirby Falcon Jr. over their spice trademarks. Walker & Sons created the cajun seasoning “Slap Ya Mama”, while Falcon, Jr. created a spice company called Punch Ya Daddy LLC. While the lawsuit may have been ugly, both have great stories of how their names came about. When people came into Walker’s Deli and asked about their cajun seasoning, the response given was “When you use this seasoning, the food tastes so good, you’ll receive a loving slap on the back and a kiss on the cheek for creating such a great tasting Cajun dish”. Meanwhile, Falcon was apparently roughhousing with his son who said “I’m going to punch ya, daddy.” Punch Ya Daddy, LLC has since been renamed Punch Daddy and was sold off earlier this year.
So remember, while Father’s Day has come and gone, you should appreciate your father all-year-round. But if you decide to honor you dad by naming your product or business after him, make sure to see if you are violating anyone else’s trademark rights before you do it.