Music fans in Connecticut may have heard that a former member of the Commodores has been sued for trademark infringement by Commodores Entertainment Corp. (CEC). According to the lawsuit, the former member began performing under the name ‘The Commodores Experience featuring Thomas McClary.” The lawsuit was filed in 2014, and McClary was barred by a court from using the name in 2016. A court later ruled that he couldn’t refer to himself as the founder of the Commodores as it could be confusing to fans.
A court filing in April 2018 by the CEC also claims that the use of the Commodores name is confusing. Although the court ruled in favor of the CEC, it claims that McClary was still using the Commodores name on social media. The most recent legal action requests that McClary demonstrate why he isn’t in contempt and should be sanctioned.
As a general rule, another person or entity’s intellectual property can be used in limited instances. However, the use of this material should not seek to confuse consumers or otherwise violate the rights of a copyright or trademark holder. In the event that intellectual property rights are violated, it may be possible to hold the infringing party financially liable.
A trademark holder could seek a judgment that reimburses him or her for any actual or potential damages that were caused by the infringement. However, it is also possible to ask the infringing party to pay for a license to use a name or other item for commercial purposes. An attorney may be able to review a case and help the owner of an intellectual property determine whether to seek an amicable resolution to the matter or proceed with a lawsuit.
Source: CMU, “The Commodores sue ex-Commodore over The Commodores trademark,” Chris Cooke, April 6, 2018