OK Go: cereal giant and indie rockers in legal battle over name the band had first

Can you share any examples? That is, “OK Go” as a stand-alone statement, product name etc. rather than part of a longer dialogue?

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“One” and “Direction” are certainly common words, but “one direction” as a phrase isn’t so much, so yeah, suing someone that’s making a straight pun on that seems fine.

On the other hand, “ok go” is a super common phrase. A better example would be one of the “Finders Keepers” stores suing the 2015 movie named “Finders Keepers” or suing Stephen King for his novel of that name.

Which is completely irrelevant to trademark law. Common words and phrases receive trademark protection all the time. As I said before, the primary purpose of trademarks is to protect consumers. It’s so that if you are buying Coca-Cola, you know that you are buying the specific brand of cola flavored soda manufactured by the Coca-Cola company, and not some knockoff. Pandora is the name of a character from ancient Greek mythology. It is also a brand name trademarked by both a jewelry company and a music streaming service. Now, why do they both get to have that trademarked? It’s not because the name already existed. It’s because there’s no chance of it creating confusion among consumers in the marketplace. There’s not a lot of crossover there, so if someone is buying Pandora jewelry, it’s extremely unlikely that they would think it had anything to do with the streaming service, and vice versa.

Now, based on what I just said, you might think, “Well there’s no chance someone is going to confuse a breakfast cereal with a rock band! So it’s ok, right?” It depends. Please note also that I said the band has a strong case, not a slam dunk. If Ok Go, the band, had only ever used their name in performing music and maybe selling concert t-shirts and other merchandise, then I would agree that they probably wouldn’t have a strong case here. But that’s not true. They have done cross-marketing promotional work using their band name on a wide variety of products, including breakfast cereal from Post. So an argument can be made that a consumer, on seeing this new Post cereal product called OkGo!, might reasonably think, “Oh, I guess that band is promoting another cereal. Man, that’s my favorite band. I’m gonna try this stuff!” Or, “Oh, I guess that band is promoting another cereal. What sellouts. I’m never listening to them again!” Either way, the band suffers harm. In the first case, they should be entitled to some share of that sale since their name helped sell the product. In the second case, their own brand value was harmed by the perceived association with the cereal.

Full disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but I am a law student. This means that I know just enough to be dangerous, both to myself and others. Please don’t take anything I said to be anything close to legal advice.


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