Lady Gaga Sues Over Lady Gaga Trademark
By Alison Parker
Reviewed by Jennifer Williams
Lady Gaga has made it clear time and time again that she will stop at nothing to protect her trademark and image. The pop singer recently filed a lawsuit against Excite Worldwide LLC over its frivolous trademark application. The Nevada-based jewelry and cosmetics company filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to score the rights to use the name “Lady Gaga” and “Lady Gaga LG” for one of their product lines. Her lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
The fact that the trademarks Excite hoped to register use Gaga’s actual name creates an extreme likelihood of consumer confusion because it implies that Gaga is in some way associated with or promotes Excite’s products. It is not surprising that a company would want to bank off her image–she is a worldwide mega superstar with a distinct and unmistakeable image, not to mention she has an avid group of followers.
Lady Gaga and her flamboyant, whimsical costumes are arguably her trademark–when people think of Lady Gaga, they think of the undeniably talented superstar and her crazy attire. With trademarks, there are certain legal categories that marks fall under to indicate the strength of the mark. A trademark that is considered fanciful is entitled to the highest level of protection. A fanciful trademark is inherently distinctive and is generally made up words that have no independent meaning aside from identifying the source of the products or goods. For example, Kodak is considered a fanciful trademark. It is arguable that “Lady Gaga” would fall under the fanciful trademark category and thus her trademark would be accorded the highest level of protection. According to the NY Daily News, Lady Gaga already has pending trademark applications to use her name for products that include Lady Gaga candles, key chains, bags, towels, lanyards, tattoos, wigs and ornaments.
Since Gaga filed the lawsuit, Excite’s website, www.exciteworldwide.com, has been disabled. It should probably withdraw those trademark applications as well. Did Excite really think it could get away with that? Lady Gaga takes legal action and wins quite a bit–she has even cracked down over names that weren’t exactly hers–but that she considered to be similar enough to create confusion.
Recently, a London ice cream parlor, which named its made-with-human-breast-milk ice cream concoction “Baby Gaga,” received a cease and desist letter from Gaga’s attorneys. And if the name of the ice cream wasn’t enough to convince consumers that Lady Gaga was associated with the dessert, the waitresses who served the ice cream wore some pretty ridiculous get-ups, a la the pop star herself. The flavor is no longer listed on the ice cream shop’s menu.
In another bizarre situation, Lady Gaga got an injunction against a company who planned to release a single by a cartoon character named “Lady Goo Goo.” Lady Goo Goo was one of 52 characters on Moshi Monsters–a website that allows children to adopt and name creatures. According to Rolling Stone, Lady Goo Goo was a blonde baby who donned a pair of sunglasses and appeared in a video that was released on YouTube in June. The video got so much positive feedback that the company intended to release the song as a single. But the British High Court ruling barred the company from “promoting, advertising or selling anything involving the Lady Goo Goo character.”
Based on Gaga’s past successes, it seems like people are out of luck when they try to rip her off. Because her name and image is funky and unforgettable, it will be tough for anyone to get away with trying to use anything similar, let alone use her actual name.