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Taylor Swift Settles Trademark Infringement Case With Orange County Clothing Company

June 27, 2016

Posted in Intellectual Property

photo - Swift Lucky 13“Lucky 13” wasn’t so lucky for pop star Taylor Swift who found herself being sued by Blue Sphere, a seller of clothing of the same name based in Orange County. The lawsuit was filed in May 2014, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and settled in November. The terms of the settlement agreement are confidential. Blue Sphere accused Taylor of infringing on its “Lucky 13” trademarks which it has held since 1991, reports Rolling Stone. The trial was expected to start in January.

Her website describes the 25 year old Swift (whose birthdate is December 13) as,

  • A seven time Grammy award winner and the only musician to have three albums sell over a million copies in their first week of sales,
  • The first musician since the Beatles (and the only female) to have albums six or more weeks ranked as the number one seller with three consecutive studio albums,
  • One of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and
  • One of eight people narrowed down to be the magazine’s 2014 Person of the Year (she lost out to those battling the then Ebola outbreak).

What got this rich, famous, pop star and Person of the Year runner up in hot legal water? According to Blue Sphere’s allegations Swift started using “Lucky 13” on a line of t-shirts in March 2012. She also worked with American Greetings Corporation to sell Lucky 13 greeting cards, which included a Lucky 13 sweepstakes promotion. The company accused Swift of harming their brand and confusing their target audience.

A normal part of the civil litigation process is to have the parties testify under oath prior to a trial at a deposition attended by attorneys by both sides.

  • Blue Sphere sought to depose Swift but she replied in an affidavit that she was too busy touring to testify and she had “no knowledge related to the design, marketing, advertising, distribution and sale of the accused T-shirt.”
  • Given Swift’s business savvy reputation, Blue Sphere stated Swift’s “claims of ignorance are not credible.”
  • The judge in the case ordered a deposition go forward finding plaintiff’s attorneys were willing to accommodate her schedule, reports the New York Daily News.

Plaintiff’s legal team aggressively sought evidence to support their client’s claims which Swift claimed was a form of harassment. The attorneys,

  • Investigated endorsement deals and served subpoenas on Elizabeth Arden, Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Toyota, Papa John’s and others.
  • Obtained records from Swift’s agents, William Morris Endeavor.
  • Sought photographs and videos of Swift in which her buttocks or breasts were at least partially visible.

Blue Sphere’s attorneys stated their efforts were to try to determine,

  • How products associated with Swift were named,
  • What other Lucky 13 products might have been planned,
  • Whether trademark searches were done,
  • The level of control Swift maintains over her brand, and
  • Her understanding of marketing channels.

Swift is no stranger to trademarks. Her managers have trademarked numerous lyrics and phrases popularized by the singer which appear on her current tour merchandise.

If you own a trademark that’s being infringed, whether by a world famous musician or not, contact our office so we can talk about your rights, how the legal system can be used to protect your rights and your potential damages.