Trademark infringement occurs when someone uses a mark without permission, or when someone uses a mark that is similar enough to another to cause confusion as to the source of the goods or services being offered.
One such case of infringement was recently settled by Eagles frontman Don Henley and a Wisconsin-based clothing manufacturer. Henley filed a lawsuit last year against Duluth Trading Co. after the manufacturer used his first and last names in an email ad, which read, “Don a Henley and Take it easy,” the last part being a reference to the Eagles’ song, “Take It Easy.”
Henley had already trademarked his first and last names, and in his lawsuit he claimed that Duluth Trading’s use of his name was an exploitation of his fame and suggested that he endorsed the shirts when he hadn’t.
Henley and Duluth Trading settled the suit on April 14, with the company sending out an apology letter and making a monetary donation to a non-profit organization founded by the artist.
The reason you establish and use a trademark is to brand your products and services. You want to build consumer confidence while protecting the brand and products you’ve worked hard to create. When someone else uses your trademark in a way that confuses your customers, clients or, in this case, fans, it could cost you dearly.
The solution could be a cease and desist letter, or you may need to take the matter to court. In any case, an intellectual property lawyer can advise you on the most cost-efficient way to protect your trademark or servicemark.
If you’re not sure about registering and protecting your own trademark, then speak with an intellectual property law attorney. You might also find this previous post helpful: “What are my trademark rights in California?“