Some of the hub-bub may have died down about Taylor Swift and the trademark infringement lawsuit regarding “Lucky 13.” What really to make of it?
Swift’s time to answer is fast approaching, but nothing is yet on file with the United States District Court in Southern California. Taylor “Swift’s Business Empire” (that is the Plaintiff’s wording) is defined as Taylor A. Swift, Taylor Nation, LLC, Taylor Swift Productions, Inc., Swift Merchandising, Inc., and TAS Rights Management, LLC. They are being sued by both Blue Sphere, Inc., a California Corporation doing business as Lucky 13, and Robert A. Kloetzly, its President. In an entertainingly written complaint (entertaining at least to trademark attorneys), the plaintiffs lay the groundwork for the Empire’s latest dastardly mission: infringement of the “Lucky 13” trademark, conceived and created by the plaintiffs over two decades ago.
The story begins with Lucky 13’s owner, Kloetzly. He grew up on the shores of Huntington Beach, California, surfing, riding motorcycles up and down Pacific Coast Highway, attending the Orange County Fair, and going to concerts given by such notable musicians as Mike Ness and Social Distortion, Black Flag, and Billy Zoom and John Doe’s group, X. He formed “Lucky 13″ in 1991, and has used the mark on clothing, jewelry, body spray, license plate holders, calendars and other sundry products.
Taylor Swift is apparently well known for using the number 13. She features 13 as her lucky number (harkening back to her birthday and other life events). She calls it her lucky number and has offered products such as t-shirts with the words “Lucky 13,” and a shamrock constituting the design.
English: Taylor Swift at the 2010 Time 100. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If we know that is Taylor’s lucky number, why can’t she use it? Because Lucky 13 says they got there first. And apparently, her well known image for favoring “fast cars, and dangerous men who drive inappropriately,” insures trouble and confusion. They claim that the “Empire” has a huge degree of sophistication, and, in effect, should have known better. They would like the Court to believe that Swift is a dark star, indeed.
In reality, this suit is not remarkably different from any other run of the mill trademark infringement action. The willful knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing, the moral high ground of the plaintiff — both of those themes play well, and as a matter of fact, both are often pretty true. The obvious legal defense here would be that no trademark use is being made of “Lucky 13,” but that this is just a favorite phrase well known to fans of the defendant, and not likely to confuse anyone. But a favorite phrase is not necessarily free for use if someone else has claimed it first. Unlike some trademark cases, wherever celebrities are plaintiffs or defendants, the complaint of these plaintiffs are something more than fantasy. Whether or not they can use this Force to change the Empire’s use of “Lucky 13” remains to be seen.
This post originally appeared on Forbes