from the missed-opportunities dept
First, an apology. I tend to cover much of our trademark beat here at Techdirt. And regular readers here will know that my sense of humor trends towards the juvenile and vulgar. It is with a solemn and heartfelt apology, therefore, that I must report to you all that I somehow missed that there was a trademark fight between famed drummer Ringo Starr and Pacific Coast Holdings IP, LLC, makers of a Ring O — wait for it — sex toy. I really should have caught this, but missed it.
The background on this is that Starr’s legal team opposed the “Ring O” trademark Pacific Coast Holdings applied for, claiming that the public would be confused into believing that Starr was now somehow in the sex toys business.
Documents filed by his lawyers in 2019 said: “Consumers will likely believe that Opposer’s [Starr’s] newest venture is sex toys – and this is an association that Opposer does not want.”
It must certainly be true that Starr did not want this name on a sex toy. He may have even believed people would think he was somehow associated with sex toys as a result. But his legal team very much should have explained to him that a product name like this doesn’t actually constitute trademark infringement, given that there was no other association made with the drummer and that they don’t compete with one another in commerce.
While that apparently wasn’t done up front, this is all now once again in the news because Starr and Pacific Coast Holdings have entered into a co-existance agreement, part of which includes Starr dropping his opposition.
Now, according to the settlement, Pacific Holdings and Momentum Management have agreed to “avoid any activity likely to lead to confusion” between their product and the musician.
The deal says the companies can only use the name for adult sex aids and desensitising sprays, and must have a space between the “Ring” and the “O”.
The companies have pledged not to “degrade, tarnish or deprecate or disparage” Starr’s name or image. They also said they wouldn’t make any reference or innuendo associating the product with Starr, or give the impression that he’s associated with it.
In other words, the company will continue to use the name as it had been, but now stipulate that it won’t in the future make any other reference to Ringo Starr. If that’s a win, it is certainly a meager one.
It sure would be nice, however, if the famous didn’t walk through life with IP rabbit ears attempting to pick up any real or imagined reference to themselves, just waiting to pounce over intellectual property concerns that don’t actually exist.