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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  • icon
    Oninoshiko (profile), 28 Oct 2016 @ 2:57pm

    In a just world

    They wouldn't have been granted the trademark in the first place, and preferably fined for filing such a stupid application and wasting the USPTO's time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:03pm

    the barest of critical eyes

    Grant 'em all and let the courts sort 'em out later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:06pm

    "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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldGeezer (profile), 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:08pm

    Saturday Night Live

    I suppose the next step is a lawsuit against NBC. They have been using that since 1975. So when was this stupid trademark issued? Could end up NBC could sue them. They surely trademarked their title.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SpaceLifeForm, 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:17pm

    No! Exclamation! Point!

    No confusion. Case dismissed.

    Too! Many! Lawyers!
    Not! Enough! Billable! Hours!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PlagueSD (profile), 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:17pm

    Maryland Live!™ Casino is different from Bethesda Live. Notice the "!" is missing from Bethesda Live. I see no case here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    freedomfan (profile), 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:19pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Socrates, 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:37pm

      Re: And... this will never be fixed.

      "In reality, that very rarely happens" anymore. Libraries is an example. It is a significant benefit to citizens and it promotes literacy and knowledge for all of society. And in no way or form would it have been possible to effect today.

      Waning of the democracy causes decline.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:31pm

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ron Currier (profile), 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:40pm

    LA Live

    Maybe they can take on the LA Live complex next. As a $2.5 Billion entertainment complex (soon to be home to the LA Rams) I dare say the puny little casino will have met their match. Maybe the supper club should reach out to the LA Live folks for advice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 28 Oct 2016 @ 4:17pm

    Tomorrow's headline: "Copyright Holder of movie "Frankenstein" Sue Casino For Use of "Live!"

    "Frankenstein" was the first recorded use of "live" plus exclamation point. The rights holder(s) believe that the casino use "live!" is infringing and causes specific damages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 28 Oct 2016 @ 4:22pm

    Tomorrow's Headline

    Lucasfilms to sue Fetty Wap over "Trap Queen" claiming copyright infringement over Admiral Ackabr's famous "It's a trap" declaration in "Star Wars"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Oct 2016 @ 6:24pm

    Not only are the IP laws completely fucked, but we have a history of hiring the mentally challenged to review applications with the mandate of approve early, approve often.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Manok, 28 Oct 2016 @ 11:27pm

    Just let that small club file a trademark for the word 'casino!', which of course will be granted, and Bob's you're uncle!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2016 @ 4:38am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2016 @ 4:52am

    Microsoft should wreck Live LLC Holdings, seeing as the only Live in entertainment is Xbox Live.
    Oh wait, maybe Electronic Arts should...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2016 @ 5:20am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 29 Oct 2016 @ 9:04am

    One of the problems with all this is the preponderance of shitbag lawyers using this crap to make bank. They can bill wealthy-but-clueless clients thousands to pursue these "C&D" actions against defenseless peons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    robert spano, 29 Oct 2016 @ 9:38am

    Bethesda Live?

    change your name to Bethesda Alive!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2016 @ 11:50am

    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).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2016 @ 2:14pm

    I realize that they shouldn't have to change anything, but to avoid trouble they could change their name to "Bethesda (A*)Live" with the A in a different font or scrawled in. The * is so if anyone asks about the A they can say that it's the first letter of a word that describes the people who made them change their name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tonylurker, 31 Oct 2016 @ 9:03am

    Maryland Live is going to start to crash soon anyway. A newer fancier Casino (MGM) is opening up 30 minutes south in a better location (right outside DC). I doubt there is a big enough gambling market in the area to support all of these casinos. Especially when they still have to compete with Atlantic City and West Virginia casinos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2016 @ 9:33am

    Shouldn't there be massive Fallout from a Bethesda Live! trademark?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 1 Nov 2016 @ 9:47am

    Well, that's business as usual: money defines who is right.
    We never moved away from "might makes right".
    We only redefined "might" as "money".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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