This week, Disney Enterprises, Inc. initiated trademark litigation against Ronica Holdings Limited, the company that holds and owns various trademarks for one of the top electronic dance music (“EDM”) artists in the world, DEADMAU5. DEADMAU5, whose real name is Joel Zimmerman, has been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards in the past five (5) years. He is a regular performer at the Miami location of the Ultra Music Festival, which has, in recent years, gone worldwide, and has been represented by Santucci Priore, P.L.’s attorney Michael I. Santucci since the inception of the festival in the late 1990’s.
The action was filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) which is authorized to resolve disputes over registration of trademarks in the United States. See, TTAB Case #91218136. Zimmerman’s Ronica filed an application for U.S. Trademark Registration in the USPTO seeking to register a composite trademark consisting of an image of his signature DEADMAU5 mouse head mask Zimmerman wears on stage together with the words “DEADMAU5” under the graphic. See, Application #85972976. Disney filed a Notice of Opposition to the application claiming that Ronica’s mark is likely to be confused with, and will dilute Disney’s various mouse ears trademarks. Disney is seeking a final rejection of the DEADMAU5 trademark application from the USPTO on those grounds.
Commenting on the action, Santucci Priore, P.L. lawyer Michael I. Santucci said:
“One defense that might be available to Zimmerman/Ronica would be ‘parody’ which is rooted in the freedom of speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Given that EDM has its roots in an underground dance music culture, the DEADMAU5 mouse head symbol can be said to be a legitimate, and legally protected parody and social critique of the excessive, big-business commercialism which some believe Disney has come to represent.”
Disney is known to litigate ferociously, but they are by no means invincible. In 2002 attorney Michael Santucci was successful, with his team of lawyers, in stopping Disney in its tracks with a then, record-setting jury verdict of Two Hundred Forty Million Dollars ($240,000,000) against the Walt Disney Company for his client All Pro Sports Camps, Inc. in an intellectual property case in Florida.
What do you think? Do you think consumers are likely to believe that the owner of the DEADMAU5 mark is somehow affiliated with Disney? Do you think that they would understand the mark to be a legitimate and legal parody of Disney’s iconic mouse trademarks?
Photo Credit: Flickr User nrk-p3