Feeds

Chilis could struggle in 'Californication' lawsuit

Band failed to protect its brand

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

LA rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers are suing the network behind TV hit Californication, alleging that the title is stolen from their 1999 single and album. But the group may struggle because it failed to protect its brand, according to a legal expert.

Anthony Kiedis, Chad Smith, John Frusciante, and Michael "Flea" Balzary, doing business as Red Hot Chili Peppers, are suing Showtime Networks and others. They argue that the creation and marketing of the TV series "constitutes a false designation of origin, and has caused and continues to cause a likelihood of confusion, mistake, and deception as to source, sponsorship, affiliation, and/or connection in the minds of the public".

The album Californication sold 14 million copies and was listed among Rolling Stone magazine's Top 500 Albums of All Time. The group says the US series, starring David Duchovny, dilutes the quality of their brand. They are seeking unspecified damages and a new name for the TV show.

The lawsuit notes that a recurring character in the TV show is called "Dani California". That is also the name of a character who is the subject of or mentioned in three songs by the Chili Peppers, including the song Californication. The band also wrote a hit single called Dani California.

The lawsuit does not mention it, but according to Wikipedia, a character in one episode narrates the line, "It's the edge of the world and all of western civilisation," a lyric from the song Californication.

Further, the lawsuit notes that a search on "Californication" in Apple's iTunes Music Store retrieves the band's works and the TV show's compilation albums. The band says that causes confusion.

However, Showtime Networks is expected to argue that the band did not coin the word, a portmanteau of California and fornication. It first appeared in print in Time Magazine in 1972, in an article called The Great Wild Californicated West.

Time reporter Sandra Burton wrote: "Legislators, scientists and citizens are now openly concerned about the threat of 'Californication' - the haphazard, mindless development that has already gobbled up most of Southern California."

Kim Walker, head of intellectual property at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said the band should have registered Californication as a trademark. Instead, the only trademark application was filed in April in the US, by Showtime Networks. The mark has not yet been registered.

"Successful songs, albums and movies can become brands in themselves. What's really surprising is how few songs and albums are properly protected," said Walker. "The Chili Peppers could almost certainly have registered a trademark for 'Californication', notwithstanding Time's article. They made the word famous, but it doesn't automatically follow that they can stop its use in a TV show.

"If they had registered the title as a trademark covering entertainment services, I very much doubt we'd have seen a lawsuit. The TV show would have been called something else," he said. "As it is, the band faces an uphill struggle."

A quick search on Rolling Stone's Top 10 Greatest Albums of All Time at the trademark registries of the US and UK shows that none of the album titles are protected by the artists or their record companies.

An individual applied to register Highway 61 Revisited, the Bob Dylan album that appears at number four in Rolling Stone's list; but that application was abandoned. Rubber Soul, ranked number five, is registered as a mark, but not to The Beatles. And Sgt Pepper's, the top-ranked album, is registered as a footwear brand by a company in Spain and as a pepper spray brand in the US.

David Bowie appears to be more savvy than most of his counterparts, though: he has registered Ziggy Stardust as a trademark for music and entertainment services. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars is ranked at number 35 in Rolling Stone's list.

See:

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?