Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records Sues Retailer Over “Blackheart” Clothing Line; Band Name Disputes are on the Rise

The complaint alleges that Hot Topic advertises the clothing line alongside the tag-line “Lingerie for Girls who Rock & Roll,” a reference to Jett’s most famous song, “I Love Rock & Roll.”   Ms. Jett’s record company owns trademarks for BLACKHEART RECORDS GROUP, which is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), and she alleges that her corporation also uses the mark in commerce for its clothing line.   Hot Topic, however, has registered the trademark BLACKHEART with the  USPTO for items such as clothing, jewelry,and cosmetics. This is an atypical band name lawsuit.  More often a trademark dispute over a band name involves different members of the group parting ways and then disputing who gets to continue using the band name.  Recently, the band Stone Temple Pilots filed a lawsuit against its former leader singer, Steve Weiland, for allegedly making live appearances using the band name.  (Complaint).  This year, two different members of Black Flag have filed competing registrations for the band name with the USPTO, which might lead to an adversarial proceeding over who has the proper trademark rights.  (Applications for registration by SST Records and Henry Rollins).  Some of the more well-known rock band name disputes over the years include those involving feuding members of Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Beach Boys, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Performers have not always in control of the name of their group.  In the early days of R&B and rock and roll, band names were often owned by a manager.  That is why the members of the Drifters were legendarily switched overnight, after the group’s owner reportedly fired Clyde McPhatter and crew after seeing the Ben E. King fronted vocal group the Five Crowns perform in concert. Today, the members of the band typically own the band’s name, and retain it after they leave a record label.  Bands often form a business entity, such as a partnership, a limited liability company, or even a corporation.  As with many of kinds of arrangements where people too often rely on friendships and handshakes, having a clearly written contract can minimize confusion and discord in the long run. (Mark) Mark Jaffe practices copyright, trademark, contract law, and litigation at Tor Ekeland, PC.  He met the drummer for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts at a friend’s Bar Mitzvah in 1984. For informational purposes only.  Not legal advice.]]]]> ]]>

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