Tennessee gets its share of trademark disputes involving entertainers who believe that their name or protected business marks are being infringed upon by outside parties. Disputes over trademarks and copyrights that cannot be resolved in private negotiations will likely be filed as litigation, asserting trademark infringement in a federal district court. One entertainer who has attempted to go that route to protect her namesake and its business integrity is Beyoncé.
She sued the individuals who have been marketing merchandise under the name “Feyoncé.” To add to the fire, the defendants have allegedly also added the phrase “put a ring on it” which is the equivalent of a play on the lyrics from the superstar’s hit, “Single Ladies.” The lawsuit, however, was met with less than full homage by the presiding federal district court judge.
The judge refused to grant an injunction to stop the defendants from using their mark on their sweatshirts, mugs and other products. The court reasoned that the consumer was unlikely to have been confused by the similarity in the two words and that where confusion is unlikely then the injunction is not a legal entitlement. However, that does not necessarily mean that Beyoncé is out of court on her claim.
The refusal of a preliminary injunction in a case dealing with trademarks and copyrights will not preclude a full trial on the merits of the plaintiff’s claim. The court likely would set the matter for trial and allow the jury to be the final arbiter on the issue of trademark infringement. That final step in the litigation may be fortunately forestalled, however, because the parties recently advised the court of their intentions to enter into settlement negotiations. That may mean that the superstar will pay the offenders to stop using the mark, or alternatively, they may devise any number of other resolutions that both sides can accept. Similar trademark infringement cases are litigated in the federal courts in Tennessee.