Doobie Brothers Vs. The Doobie Decimal System In Trademark Battle

from the is-everyone-high? dept

You just can’t have a little clever fun anymore. With all the hoops cover bands have to jump through just to ply their craft, I had never really considered that one cover band might get into a trademark scuffle over the band’s name. Yet, that’s exactly what has happened to the Doobie Decimal System, a cover band now being sued by The Doobie Brothers, who claim that the band’s name is confusingly similar to their own.

The Doobie Brothers trademarked their band name — as well as the use of “Doobies” for musical performances — in 1982, and their suit argues that the Doobie Decimal System’s moniker is “highly phonetically and visually similar” to their own, a similarity further compounded by the larger font used for the word “Doobie” in the Decimal System’s website and concert posters.

Ah, yes, an enormously popular classic rock band with the kind of name recognition most bands only dream about is going to be confused with the Doobie Decimal System, a cover band whose name is a play on an organizational system for libraries. Congratulations, trademark pushers, this is where you’ve brought us. I contend that no amount of doobies could actually result in this doobie-confusion, but some of the supporters of this lawsuit are really stretching themselves to argue that there would indeed be such confusion.

Although the story is being spun in some quarters as though the Doobie Brothers are claiming to own the word “doobie,” they’re really just defending the trademark they own — and as Billboard‘s report points out, since the Doobie Decimal System performs hits from the same decade that produced most of the Doobie Brothers’ bestselling albums, they’re not entirely out of line in viewing one another as indirect competitors.

Yeah, actually, they kind of are out of line of direct competition. Nobody is confused here and the cover band is competing with The Doobie Brothers about as much as a little league game competes with Major League Baseball. Sure, they’re both baseball, but nobody is trying to figure out how to spend their baseball dollar and deciding between the two. In the meantime, even if The Doobie Brothers felt some kind of fearful obligation to protect their trademark, they could certainly be going about it more amicably than this suit.

They’re seeking “an accounting, an injunction and punitive damages for trademark infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition.”

Our only hope here is that the folks that own the IP on the Dewey Decimal system (yes, seriously, someone owns it) can be brought into the mix, causing the sitting judge’s head to explode in frustration so everyone can just go home.

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Comments on “Doobie Brothers Vs. The Doobie Decimal System In Trademark Battle”

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avideogameplayer says:

Let’s see…30+ year group who probably hasn’t a dime between them (state fairs probably don’t pay much) because the record company screwed them, never signed a deal with Apple, Spotify or any other online service (PIRATES!)…are trying to become relevant again by invoking the Streisand effect by suing a PARODY BAND…

It’s a shame seeing what old groups will go through to see records again without ACTUALLY doing anything…


Drawoc Suomynona (profile) says:

Re: (weakening by not suing)

The Doobie Brothers seem to own the only registered trademark that includes the word DOOBIE for entertainment services (there is another recently filed application for DOOBIE DEMOLITION but it’s a good bet it get’s rejected based on the existing reg), but whether the Doobie Brothers will be successful or not in this suit may indeed depend on whether they have been defending the name consistently in the past. If there are a slew of other “DOOBIE” named bands making music and they have been allowed to perform without challenge for a long period of time it will be very hard for the DB to put that genie back in the bottle. However, if the DBs have a been enforcing the DOOBIE BROTHERS trademark consistently and taking action against other “DOOBIE” named bands in the past then they will most likely prevail.

In these situations I always ask this question: would party B have chosen the name/brand/trademark that they did if it were not for the existence of the name/brand/trademark of party A. If the answer is no, then there’s a good chance that party B is trading off the goodwill, the notoriety, the fame of party A.

This is why you see tribute bands choose names that are suggestive of the music of a certain band, but they don’t ever use the band’s name unless they have a license. Of course, this leads to all sorts of fun…

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While it does appear excessive, just searching for “weaken trademark name by not suing” will clarify to anyone that they have no real choice.

We’ve discussed this many times. While you do have to enforce your trademark to keep it, that DOES NOT MEAN you have to sue. (1) It only matters in cases where there’s a real likelihood of confusion and (2) you can absolutely just hand out a free license as well.

Monday (profile) says:

Amazing! Freakin' Amazing!!

What’s so Amazing! Freakin’ Amazing!! is that I haven’t heard that name since 1982 – in grade seven! We smoked doobies, and listened to Iron Maiden & Billy Idol – yeah, that was hard then 🙂

Have you ever been in a Library when you’re high? I understand the name ‘Doobie Decimal System’

This is funny, but it’s a tragic comedy – must’ve run out the royalties…

Laura Quilter (profile) says:

Dewey IP

Be careful what you wish for. Dewey is owned by OCLC, which has over-policed and over-claimed IP in the past.

OCLC sued The Library Hotel in NYC for using Dewey Decimal Classification numbers for room numbers, for instance — ), and has repeatedly tried to claim ownership of library records that were created by individual libraries in what was intended to be a cooperative system (

John Fenderson (profile) says:

The OCLC would have a stronger claim

The Doobie Brothers claim seems completely without merit to me. There’s no possible confusion there. However, the Online Computer Library Center holds the trademark for “Dewey Decimal System” — if there’s even a slight chance for confusion it would be with that.*

* I’m only seriously joking here, as the OCLC’s trademark is in a different market category.

Stephen Q. Pickering (profile) says:

TYPICAL. Just...typical.

There is an INFAMOUS very special TWO PART episode of 70s sitcom WHATS HAPPENING!? where Rerun Stubbs bootlegs (records, on a crap recorder) a Doobie Brother’s concert. It’s called DOOBIE OR NOT DOOBIE (S2E16). You used to be able to watch this landmark episode on YouTube but it got DMCA’d by Sony.

The Doobies get on their high horse lecturing about how terrible it is to tape a concert. I grew up thinking taping a concert was like rape (I was a little kid when I saw it).

It must be seen to be believed. Nothing about this story surprising me. They are a litigious bunch, of doobious talent, spawned yacht rock sensation Michael McDonald, which I will never forgive them for, and Skunk Baxter works for the defense or intelligence establishment now.

What a wretched bunch of human beings. That I cannot stand their music to begin with is almost beside the point.

Oh look, the Whats Happening?! episode has a Facebook page. Of course it does, because it was the dumbest moment of the 1970s. And that’s saying a lot.

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