Christian filmmakers Jonathan and Andrew Erwin have been sued by a Florida-based Christian film studio for infringement of its federally registered trademark. The legal action comes months before the Lionsgate release of the brothers’ new movie I Still Believe. According to a complaint filed in federal court in Florida by the law firm of Santucci Priore, P.L., the Plaintiff, KingdomWorks Studios LLC continuously produced and distributed Christian-themed films under the name KingdomWorks Studios long before the Erwin brothers adopted the term “Kingdom.”
The Florida company, based in Stuart, is owned by Jeremy and Tiana Wiles, a filmmaking couple whose mission, according to their website, focuses on bringing healing and transformation to the broken. It is best known for its Conquer Series film series used by over 40,000 churches and viewed by over one million men around the world. KingdomWorks Studios helped create Genesis 3D, which was released in over 1,000 theaters nationwide and is currently in production of “From the Ashes,” a faith-based movie that was filmed in Ireland in November 2019.
They are releasing five new film series to churches in 2020. The lawsuit alleges that the Erwin Brothers’ use of Kingdom Studios is causing harm and confusion in the marketplace to the business affairs of KingdomWorks Studios.
Recently, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) filed a trademark infringement lawsuit over the use of the term “April Madness” by an online fantasy game. The Defendants are alleged to market and provide online games which award prizes for predicting the results of sporting events, including college basketball games played during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament, also known as “March Madness.” The NCAA’s Complaint alleges that Defendants have been using the terms “Final 3” and “April Madness” to brand college basketball online fantasy games. The NCAA has asserted that such use is without the permission of the NCAA, who owns various trademarks incorporating the terms FINAL FOUR and MARCH MADNESS. The Complaint seeks injunctive relief due to the NCAA’s concern over Defendants’ perceived plan to offer online fantasy games, through Defendants’ website and mobile telephone applications, during the March Madness tournament, which is currently scheduled to begin on March 14, 2017. The Defendants filed trademark applications for use of the terms “Final 3” and “April Madness.”
The Complaint asserts causes of action for Federal Trademark Infringement, Trademark Dilution, and Common Law Unfair Competition. The NCAA further alleges in its Complaint that Defendants alleged infringement was willful because the NCAA had previously objected to Defendants’ use of the term “Final 3” in 2015. The NCAA is seeking an injunction to prevent Defendants’ use of the terms “Final 3” and “April Madness,” refusal of Defendant’s trademark applications for the same, and for actual damages, profits, exemplary damages and attorneys’ fees. On March 9, 2017, the NCAA filed a motion requesting that the Court enter a preliminary injunction to immediately stop Defendants’ use of the terms “Final 3” and “April Madness.”
The NCAA having to deal with businesses trying to profit off the March Madness tournament is not uncommon. Considering that the March Madness tournament begins in March 14, 2017, an immediate resolution of this case is likely. We will be monitoring the status of this case. Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding the information in this article.
Daniel Devine, Esq.
Santucci Priore, P.L.
 See, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Kizzang LLC and Robert Alexander, Case No. 17-cv-00712-LJM-MPB, at Docket Entry No. 1 (Mar. 8, 2017).
 See, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Kizzang LLC and Robert Alexander, Case No. 17-cv-00712-LJM-MPB, at Docket Entry No. 6 (Mar. 9, 2017).
Recently, the companies operating the car company ROLLS-ROYCE obtained a default judgment against rapper Robert D. Davis a/k/a Rolls Royce Rizzy. The Plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against the Defendant for trademark dilution, trademark infringement and unfair competition/false designation of origin under the Federal Lanham Act and for claims under New Jersey statutory and common law. The dispute arose out of Defendant’s use of the name “Rolls Royce Rizzy” in connection with his performance and sale of rap music, including promotion of his music on YouTube and through the sale of shirts that contain the words “Team Rolls Royce.” The Plaintiffs contended that such acts infringed upon their trademark rights in the terms ROLLS-ROYCE and that even after being put on notice of their claims, the Defendant refused to stop. Further, even after the lawsuit was filed, Defendant continued to use the stage name “Rolls Royce Rizzy” and posted references to the lawsuit on his Instagram account.
The Defendant failed to defend himself in the lawsuit and a default judgment as to Plaintiffs’ claims for trademark dilution was entered against him as a result. A permanent injunction was also entered against Defendant preventing him from further using Plaintiffs’ ROLLS-ROYCE trademark. The Court refused to enter a default judgment as to Plaintiffs’ claims for trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin, citing a lack of likelihood of consumer confusion.
As evidenced by this case it is important to obtain legal representation if you are presented with defending a lawsuit. If a Defendant refuses to obtain counsel, a default judgment may be entered. Generally, if a default is entered against a Defendant, the Defendant is deemed to have admitted to all factual allegations of the lawsuit, with the exception of those relating to damages.
Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding the information in this article.
Daniel Devine, Esq.
Santucci Priore, P.L.