Huge Casino Threatens Small Blues Club For Using The Word 'Live' In Its Name

from the dead dept

When I drop dead of a massive heart attack, it will be because some huge company has bullied some small company over a ridiculous trademark that never should have been granted in the first place. The examples for this sort of thing are legion around Techdirt, but it still gets me every single time. The Trademark Office has done such a poor job of turning even the barest of critical eyes towards trademark applications that all sorts of short and common words have been granted trademarks all over the place, including in industries where it was plainly insane to grant them at all.

The latest of these concerns a small family-owned supper club in Maryland and the threat letter it received from an enormous casino company over the trademark it had somehow received on the word “live.”

The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in the 7700 block of Wisconsin Avenue was opened four years ago by owner Rick Brown. He envisioned a grand supper club on the scale of the famous Copacabana nightclub and wanted to preserve a landmark that had personal meaning to him and his family. After more than 900 concerts and 240,000 customers over four years, he decided to change the name of the business to Bethesda Live, attempting to attract a wider audience and let people know they have more than just blues and jazz acts.

Within days of announcing the name change, Brown got a letter from an attorney representing Maryland Live! Casino, ordering Brown to cease and desist with the name change and threatening legal action if he continued. The letter said, “Live! Holdings, LLC is the owner of the registered trademark ‘Live!’ and we are writing to object to your company’s contemplated use of ‘Bethesda Live’ in connection with an entertainment facility in Bethesda, Maryland.”

Yes, Maryland Live! Casino is asserting it has a trademark on the word “live” for use in the entertainment market. Put yourself in the chair of someone at the Trademark Office, if you can. You see an application for the word “live” to be used in the entertainment market. If you can picture yourself taking any course of action other than laughing maniacally as you light the application on fire, then it appears you’re just the sort of person the USPTO is hiring, so go send in your resume. The rest of us will be facepalming over here, because that’s not just a common word generally, but a word so common in the entertainment industry as to be downright ubiquitous.

And, yet, pretty much everyone agrees that if the casino wishes to move this dispute to a courtroom, the small supper club in Bethesda is completely boned.

Brown’s lawyer, Chris Foley, a trademark lawyer and partner at Finnegan Law, said the casino is overreaching. However, he said his client could be wiped out financially if he tried to fight the order.

“Oh, it’s trademark bullying.” Foley said. “I think we’re dealing with a David and Goliath (situation) that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars easily and that’s not fair to him.”

“It is unfair,” Brown said. “Even if we were to fight a lawsuit, it would be very expensive. We just don’t have those resources.”

Trademark bullying occurs because it works. Brown has said he’s reached out to the casino to plead that something be worked out, but the casino can’t seem to find a way to let a blues supper club use the word “live.” In a just world, this kind of bullying would result in the casino losing this overly-broad and common trademark entirely. Sadly, this world is often not quite so just as that.

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Companies: bethesda blues and jazz super club, bethesda live, maryland live

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Comments on “Huge Casino Threatens Small Blues Club For Using The Word 'Live' In Its Name”

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Anonymous Coward says:

"Trademark bullying occurs because it works"
Sad but true. It is also part of the "ownership culture" were public goods is captured to be someones monopoly.

BTW: I believed the David and Goliath situation were about the wonder that a big guy ended up dead after being shoot in the head with a ranged weapon.

Dishing out misery seams to be a thing in scripture!

Krist (profile) says:

Re: Re: Saturday Night Live

Ok, from the plink above, looks like “Maryland Live!” does NOT have a trademark on Live, it’s trademark is on the phrase “Maryland Live!” So the C&D letter is a bogus legal claim and Bethesda Live can take the C&D to court (note, not the trademark case.) . Filing a false legal document with the courts is a criminal offense.

freedomfan (profile) says:

And... this will never be fixed.

Any legislation looking to fix this will fail. Even though the vast majority of normal people agree this is an injustice, the actual impact they feel is small and they have a proportionally small interest in improving the law. On the other side, those with trademarks and similar branding IP have a huge interest in either maintaining the status quo or making it even worse.

This is a standard example of what ends up happening when there are government regulations over an area with concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. Of course, there is an ideal where the regulatory body represents the diffuse interests of the many against the concentrated interests of the few. In reality, that very rarely happens.

DB (profile) says:

"Live!" is not the same as "Live"

Are they really claiming a trademark on a common descriptive word in their target market?

When I was involved in applying for trademarks we paid a specialty firm to produce a report. We ended up with a giant binder of potentially conflicting marks and names, which we needed to document as non-overlapping. There were a handful that did appear to conflict. In every case we found that the trademark claimed only those words in a specific font or when tied to unique elements of their mark. Which was carefully documented in case there was a later question.

Anonymous Coward says:

I hope someone who likes the smaller club and has money is willing to fund the legal case.

Live! Holdings, LLC needs to be burned for such heavy punitive damages that it goes from Live! to Dead! and every single person involved in ownership of that company, along with the lawyers representing them goes flat out bankrupt and ends up homeless.

Anonymous Coward says:

so why doesn’t someone who is a ‘Trademark Lawyer’, who actually gives a damn about the way David and Goliath lawsuits get started and the way that ridiculous USPTO workers actually DONT do their job, offer to do the defense for free? there may be no money exchanging hands but surely the publicity of representing ‘David’ would be an enormous boost to their legal business, wouldn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Just to be sure Google has a chance...

…to spider and provide results.

Maryland Live! is owned and operated by asshat bullies. Maryland Live! should be boycotted into business death by everyone of good conscience. Maryland Live! is run by thugs and criminals. Maryland Live! boooooo! Maryland Live! hisssss!

Childish but satisfying, and TD can’t suffer for MY expressions of opinion (that Maryland Live! is AWFUL).

拓真田中 says:


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