from the idol-hands dept
American Idol, the famous singing competition franchise that has been around for roughly ever, has mostly stayed out of our headlines for years, save for some hiccups centering around how technology has messed up their voting processes. That is set to change, as FremantleMedia, the company that owns the trademark rights for the franchise, has decided to lawyer up against the trademark threat presented by a local county festival holding a singing competition.
Here’s hoping that the residents of Yolo County can help the event come up with a new name for the popular talent contest after a “Cease and Desist” order was received from the attorneys for American Idol.
On Sept. 17, according to Marty DeAnda, Yolo County Fair Entertainment Director, was reached by Michael J. Salvatore of the law firm Holmes Weinberg PC and FremantleMedia, which owns the trademark rights to American Idol and “those marks in connection with entertainment services and related products and services.”
The article goes on to note that the folks behind the festival contacted the lawyers and explained they hadn’t intended on this infringement, with an agreement to change the name of the Yolo Idol competition. It all ends up sounding perfectly amicable… except that this is pure bullying on the part of Fremantle. And entirely unnecessary bullying at that. As with many of the trademark issues we discuss here, it bears pointing out that the county’s use of the word “idol” doesn’t magically confuse the public into thinking that American Idol was branching off into county festivals. On top of that, there is both the lack of real commerce in question here, not to mention the lack of harm as evidenced by the length of time in which Yolo County put on its competition under that name without Fremantle even catching wind of it.
The “Yolo Idol” name only recently came to FremantleMedia’s attention, even though the Yolo Idol contest has been around for more than 14 years, drawing hundreds of participants and audience members every summer.
DeAnda and outgoing Yolo County Fair Director Rita Moore understand the necessity of complying with the order (and have done so) and that American Idol is a registered trademark. However, they want the Yolo talent competition to continue, albeit with a new name.
“I called their lawyer directly” said DeAnda. “I professionally and politely explained to him that the Yolo County Fair derived zero revenue from the event and in fact The Yolo County Fair invests a great deal of money to produce the event.”
Customer confusion, actual use in commerce, and why after all these years this is suddenly infringement are all open questions that will remain unresolved as Yolo County is capitulating. And, while it’s understandable that the county doesn’t want to go through the time and expense to push back against Fremantle for all of this, that reality obviously still sucks. It would be much better if bullies like Fremantle would receive the pushback they deserve.