Gowhere Hip Hop

Diamonds Are Forever? A Lesson On Trademarks

Volcom vs Roc Nation
 
Radaronline reports that Jay-Z's company Roc Nation is being sued for trademark infringement by Volcom, a modern lifestyle brand, for use of the RocNation diamond-shaped logo.

These marks look similar, but we can tell the difference between the two, right? So what's the problem?

First things first, it helps to define a trademark. Quite simply, a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, (think a brand name or a logo) that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. In order to receive protection, a valid trademark must be distinctive, for example, like the infamous Nike swoosh, McDonalds Golden Arches, or Apple logo. Typically, music artists and entertainers use trademarks to protect band names or web site domain names under special circumstances, for example, Young Money, Maybach Music Group, and Bad Boy Entertainment.

In Jay-Z's case, Volcom is claiming that RocNation's use of the diamond-shaped logo infringes Volcom's use of its logo, which it has used since 1991. Specifically, Volcom, who owns the federal trademark registration, is suing over the use of the mark in conjunction with sale of headphones.

Volcom contends that since 2009, RocNation has used its similar diamond-shaped mark on its RocNation/Skullcandy headphones, despite awareness of Volcom's prior use. Volcom claims that RocNation's use causes confusion among consumers because consumers are likely to believe that Volcom has sponsored the RocNation/Skullcandy headphones. As part of its relief, Volcom requests an injunction against RocNation to prevent it from selling any products bearing the diamond-mark; that RocNation destroy any products bearing the mark; damages (Volcom claims that it has invested over $100,000,000 in creating and managing its brand); and that the court cancel RocNation's trademark registration in its mark. If Volcom succeeds on its claim, RocNation could likely have to change its logo, manufacture new products with that new logo, and pay some money to Volcom.

So what have we learned from all of this? First, one should be as creative as possible when selecting marks or names to use (logos, websites, stage names, etc.)--the more creative one is, the less likely that someone might already be using the mark and the more protection one could be afforded in the future. Generally speaking, choosing a stage name like Pluff Daddy, or Jay-Zee is probably a bad idea. Same as selecting a logo that looks similar to one that an established artist is already using. This is because these individuals could argue that they are using these names and logos like a trademark, and who wants to get sued by them? Secondly, this is probably one of those instances where getting a lawyer might prove very beneficial. A lawyer can do the necessary work to both protect your mark and ensure that any marks you intend to use do not infringe on someone else's rights.

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