Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rockers vs. Bikers: Likelihood of Confusion

Blackwall Group, LLC v. Sick Boy, LLC, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19808 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 11, 2011)

Plaintiff Blackwall Group, LLC (“Blackwall”) operates “Sickboy’s Bad Habit Lounge”, a Daytona Beach, Florida restaurant and bar filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction against Defendant Sick Boy, LLC (“SBLLC”) a purveyor of apparel and accessories including the mark “Sick Boy”. SBLLC then filed a motion in opposition. Blackwall had filed the suit seeking a declaratory judgment that its trade name, domain name, and logo artwork do not infringe on SBLLC's trademark. SBLLC disagrees and has counterclaimed, contending that Blackwall's activities have caused confusion and infringe on its trademark. By way of its motion in opposition, SBLLC seeks to enjoin any further (alleged) infringement.

Blackwall does not dispute the validity of SBLLC’s federally registered trademark. Therefore, the sole issue was whether there is likelihood of confusion according to the seven factors in the 11th Circuit. For the first factor, the strength of the mark, SBLLC argues that “Sick Boy” is arbitrary or fanciful as applied to clothing and accessories. Blackwall did not dispute this and rather contended that the mark has been weakened by third party use. Although Blackwall presented evidence of “Sick Boy” appearing on other companies’ apparel and accessories, the court determined that the record did not prove the third party use to be excessive or widespread enough to significantly weaken the mark.

For the second factor, the similarity of marks, the court found they were only somewhat similar. Blackwall used the entire phrase “Sick Boy’s Bad Habit Lounge” all the time, whereas SBLLC merely used the two words “Sick Boy”. Also, Blackwall’s mark includes a picture of a flaming vinyl record which is suggestive of its rock music theme. In contrast, the court reasoned, SBLLC motorcycle products include a motorcycle cross and skull. These elements did not overlap between the Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s marks. The court distinguished between marks for rock theme and motorcycle lifestyle.

The court found very little similarity between goods and services because the bar did not sell merchandized t-shirts or caps.

For the fourth factor, the court found that the sales outlets and customers of both parties were distinct. Blackwall marketed mainly through its brick and mortar restaurant in Daytona Beach and does not offer items for sale on its website. Even thgouh SBLLC offered items for sale at “Bikeoberfest” in Daytona Beach, this was not held to be significant. “Although both are associated in some fashion with live rock music, at least arguably that music is part of the product that Blackwall is selling, while SBLLC uses that music to promote the sale of its actual product -- i.e., clothing and accessories. To look at the customer bases a different way, a single individual could obviously be included in both parties' target audiences. In that sense, there is some overlap. But it would not appear that someone would be less likely to buy one of the Defendants' t-shirts because he or she had a burger and a beer at the Plaintiff's establishment, or vice versa. From that perspective, there is little overlap between the parties' customer bases.”

For the Similarity of advertising methods, the court noted that both companies attracted companies by rock music: Blackwall hosted bands and SBLLC sponsored bands. However, the court found that the “ubiquity” of this advertising method weighed against a significant similarity of advertising methods.

The court also found no intentional misappropriation of on the part of Blackwall.

Finally, there was not enough evidence of actual confusion, even though SBLLC provided affidavits from a few of its customers. The court further explained, “There is no evidence that anyone had dinner or drinks at Sick Boy's Bad Habit Lounge because they believed that it was owned by or affiliated with Sick Boy Motorcycles or SBLLC. Indeed, the very fact that individuals were asking the question could suggest the opposite conclusion -- i.e., that they had not been misled into believing the businesses were affiliated.”

The motion on the part of SBLLC was denied due to lack of a showing of likelihood of confusion and thus not proving substantial likelihood of success on the merits.

1 comment:

  1. Buying motorcycle parts at cheap rates is a viable option for many motorcycle enthusiasts. Motorcycling is a great way to enjoy the roads.

    Kidaman Oilskins Australia profile