Bogus Trademark Threat From Twisted Sister Forcing Coffee Shop To Change Its Name
from the that's-not-how-trademark-works dept
The origin of the two names – Twisted Sister and Twisted Sisters – are vastly different as you might guess. Russell says the name for her store is a reference to a family label given to the sisters by their late brother back in the 1960s. He also used to call Nancy the “blond tornado” so Twisted Sisters and the logo, which looks like a tornado sketch are rooted in family and our Kansas location. Twisted Sister the band, we assume, has a different origin.In looking at the actual letter sent, it appears that the lawyer for the band is specifically objecting to the web URL the coffee shop has set up (it's odd that the reporter leaves out this point). Still, in looking over the details, it seems pretty clear that the band and its lawyer are abusing trademark law here. It is true that Twisted Sister has a trademark (1098366) issued in 1978, but that trademark only covers: "ENTERTAINMENT SERVICES RENDERED BY A VOCAL AND INSTRUMENTAL GROUP." As the band's lawyer must know, trademarks are issued in particular categories, and having a mark in a single category does not mean you have control over those words.
While the letter also points out that they have successfully convinced other businesses to change their name, that still doesn't make the claim valid. The likelihood of confusion here is nil. No one is going to this coffee shop thinking it's run by the band or has any association with the band. Furthermore, the lawyer's suggestion that this would qualify as "dilution" also seems ridiculous. We're no fans of the dilution theory of trademark law (which seems to go against the very basis of trademark law), to be sure, but even if you accept it as valid, it is difficult to see how there's a valid dilution claim here. Yes, the band's mark is famous, but how the hell would they show that a random coffee shop in Kansas "dilutes" their brand in any meaningful way?
Furthermore, even if the band has bullied other stores into changing their names, it does not mean they're the only "Twisted Sister" out there. In fact, they're not even the only Twisted Sister with trademarks. In looking through filings, I found legitimate approved trademarks for... Twisted Sister the board game (85857824), Twisted Sisters boutique clothing offering (3216315) and Twisted Sisters Our Business Is Dyeing offering colored yarns (3027439). All of those are live trademarks that appear to have nothing to do with the band.
It seems like if the owner of the coffee shop, Sandi Russell, wanted to turn around and scream back at the band "we're not gonna take it; no, we ain't gonna take it; we're not gonna take it, any more..." she might be able to find a lawyer more than willing to make that argument. Unfortunately, from the sound of the article, it appears that Russell is caving in to the bullying and looking to change the shop's name.