Trademark infringement lawsuits are plentiful. Pop Icon, Madonna, is currently being sued by apparel manufacturer, LA Triumph, over the use of the trademark "Material Girl", the name of Madonna's new teen clothing line. L.A. Triumph claims it has used the "Material Girl" trademark in commerce since 1997. The company further stated, it has used the trademark in the same classification as Madonna, which is junior clothing. Apparently, both lines offer similarly styled clothing which is reflective of the 80s era.
Who Has Priority Trademark Rights
I did a search for Material Girl on the USPTO Trademark database website and Madonna's company, Material Girl Brand, LLC, filed for the trademark "Material Girl" in the clothing and accessory classifications based on intent to use. The application was published for Opposition (meaning another company can assert priority trademark rights and have the application denied) on July 20, 2010. Then there is L.A. Triumph, which does not have a registered trademark or pending trademark application with the USPTO, claiming it has been using the mark in commerce (offering goods for sale to the public) since 1997.
As I have previously discussed on this blog, an unregistered trademark, has priority rights, if the mark is used first in the region the mark originated. If it is proven L.A. Triumph did actually have a viable junior clothing line using the trademark "Material Girl" since 1997, then L.A. Triumph can assert trademark infringement in its region: the West Coast. Madonna could possibly still use the mark in other parts of the country, but of course that would be near impossible as the clothing is offered nationwide in Macy's stores.
Did Madonna's team do a thorough trademark search?
The answer to that question is not known. Either her legal team did not perform a good comprehensive trademark search and did not discover L.A. Triumph's prior use of the "Material Girl" mark. Or the search was valid and because of L.A. Triumph's non-use of the mark, could not be found. We just do not know the answer to that question yet.
Madonna could fight L.A. Triumph regarding the use of the "Material Girl" trademark or she could settle. I predict she will settle because millions of dollars have already been spent manufacturing, marketing the clothes, and distributing the line. So a quick resolution is in the best interest of Material Girl Brand, LLC. A settlement could include either the purchase of the trademark rights outright or an agreement to some type of licensing fee.
I am looking forward to the outcome of this case.