Can you spot the weaknesses in this dumb musical lawsuit?
How tone deaf can you be when it comes to a big corporation beating up on a little bitty band? Like the chain itself, it took its name from the Rolling Stones song. If you’re a connoisseur of casual dining, you may have encountered a restaurant chain called Ruby Tuesday. People around the planet are laughing at the restaurant chain. A lawyer has agreed to help out with the case. Keith Richards wrote it about his then-girlfriend, Linda Keith. Quick fact: The Rolling Stones had no recourse when it came to the name of the restaurant chain because song titles cannot be copyrighted or trademarked.
They received a letter from a San Diego law firm called Mintz Levin. And it gets better. Therefore, does this really constitute “playing off the name” of the restaurant? Ruby Tuesday (the restaurant chain with 540 locations and assets approaching $1 billion) is suing Ruby Tuesdays, a five-piece very broke band from Wollongong, Australia, with lifetime revenues of about $1,000, for $2 million. The company also demands that the band destroy all merch and other items that feature the name “Ruby Tuesdays.”
I have some questions:
What would possess the company to pursue such a crazy legal action? Talk about free publicity, right? Whoa. What does an indie band have in common with a company that sells burgers? In fact, the knowing adoption of a mark intending to play off a well-established mark is among the most egregious of trademark violations, warranting courts to apply the harshest of consequences. The name of the band is “Ruby Tuesdays”, not “Ruby Tuesday.” Doesn’t that count? The good news? In fact, up until that letter arrived, they claimed never have ever heard of the place. The band–headed up by a 33-year-old schoolteacher–is getting worldwide press as they fight back against the lawsuit. They’ve timed the release of their debut album, Wooden Moon, just right. Godspeed, my friends. However, the name of a restaurant can. A bit heavy-handed, dude. Although the restaurant’s appropriation of the song title is legal, adds a certain level of hypocrisy to the situation, doesn’t it? The band didn’t name itself after the restaurant chain. It reads in part:
While many artists pay tribute to other artists through imitation, when it comes to imitating famous trademarks, only Ruby Tuesday is entitled to the goodwill of its mark. There’s plenty, actually. Now, there’s a problem. Since the company’s founding in 1972, a number of bands have adopted the names Ruby Tuesday or Ruby Tuesdays with nary a peep from the Rolling Stones or the restaurant’s head office. They can’t keep their merch in stock. And yes, founder Samuel Beall III was a fan of the Rolling Stones, especially, we can assume, the song of that name released in 1966. And if they’re not laughing, they’re disgusted by this use of power against the powerless.