January 7, 2009
Brand Naming Law vs. Larry Flynt
I was amused to see that the infamous producer of Hustler, Larry Flynt, is struggling with several trademark issues as of late. His own nephews have brought his name, which stands for all that is disreputable, further disgrace by using it to sell " low quality" porn.
In response, Flynt is filing suit, claiming that the two men are selling "knock off goods."
The nephews claim that they only want to "break into the family business," but trademark infringement is still trademark infringement - even when it comes to porno.
There are two competing names here: "Flynt Media Productions" (the pretender) and "Larry Flynt and/or Larry Flynt Publications." And although this case is headline news, this type of naming dispute happens quite often. The two brothers are, after all, named "Flynt" and might posit that they can use their own names on their enterprise.
The Vegas Trademark Attorney's Blog states his viewpoint quite clearly:
"People forget that trademark law is designed to protect consumers in the marketplace. The brothers do not have the right to use a business name that is likely to cause confusion in the marketplace - even if they do have some bona fide basis for the name."
Simply put, Flynt's nephews are trading on the goodwill of consumers and are guilty of trademark dilution and infringement.
The Flynt name does indeed have a "secondary meaning to the public" and these two are using it to make money. Although, if they so choose, the pair could use their name in another sector, where customer confusion is not likely.
This move appears doubtful however, especially after one of the nephews blurted to the press, "If I can't use my name to do business, then what kind of society, what kind of world is that?"
One ruled by trademark law, sir.
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