Hit the Road, JACK

Media Week reports that a company called SparkNet Communications sued a rival broadcasting outfit in May for infringing its trademark on stations in St. Louis, Phoenix, Chicago and San Francisco utilizing the “trademark” slogan PLAYING WHAT WE WANT.

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The District Court in Chicago wasn’t buying. Says the Media Week report:

SparkNet claimed that Bonneville’s use of the slogans “70’s, 80’s… whatever we want,” “70’s, 80’s… whatever we feel like,” and “today’s new music… and whatever we want” were confusingly similar to its “playing what we want” trademark. The consultancy has licensed the slogan and the “Jack FM” trademark to 15 stations in the U.S., including Infinity Broadcasting outlets in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.

In its ruling, the Chicago-based court wrote that Bonneville’s use of the slogans were descriptive and did not rise to the level of infringement. Bonneville’s slogans “fairly describe the music it plays and its slogans are used in connection with its own radio frequencies and station names,” the ruling stated. The court also said that Bonneville does not compete unfairly with SparkNet.

But Ron, there’s a real live circle-R registered trademark symbol on this one! (Actually, not on the specimen above, but you can find it on other examples on the net. The trademark as files is indeed for the word mark as a “typed drawing,” meaning not in any stylized form.) How can you call it a “so-called trademark”? Okay, it is a trademark. But as the court recognized — opinion here — it is a very weak trademark. Very weak. As in, “use it if you want.”

Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

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