FORT WORTH, Texas (1080 KRLD) – Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and Sony Pictures Consumer Products Inc. have filed a federal lawsuit against Rick’s Cabaret International, Inc., owners of the Ricky Bobby Sports Saloon in Fort Worth.
The 2006 film “Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” staring comedian Will Ferrell is one of the top grossing comedies of all time. Columbia, which is owned by Sony, is accusing Rick’s Cabaret of infringing on multiple trademarks when it opened its sports bar near the Texas Motor Speedway, including what the movie company says is a trademark of the character name “Ricky Bobby. ”
Intellectual property attorney Steve Borgman with Vinson & Elkins, LLP says it is possible to register a trademark for a character name.
“Clark Kent” has been trademarked in the past, he says. “Laura Croft” is currently trademarked and “PeeWee Herman” has several applications pending.
Rick’s Cabaret has its own registered service mark for the name “Ricky Bobby Sports Saloon.”
But, Borgman says that this kind of case is about more than just a name.
“The courts really look at a variety of things to kind of see the context in which the name ‘Ricky Bobby’ will appear, for example,” says Borgman.
In this case, the Ricky Bobby referred in the restaurant’s decor is, Sony says, undeniably the NASCAR racing character in the film.
“Rick’s unauthorized use of Infringed Marks that are identical to and/or confusingly similar to Columbia Pictures’ marks,” the complaint reads, “the public is likely to believe that the Establishment is approved by or affiliated with Columbia Pictures.”
Borgman says that this suit is similar to one filed in 1998 by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. against the owners of the Velvet Elvis bar in Houston. Parody was considered in that lawsuit and so was the First Amendment. In the end, Presley Enterprises won.
In the Ricky Bobby case, Sony is essentially asking for the sports bar to be shut down. The film company is also asking for the profits, which the suit estimates to be more than $75,000.
Rick’s Cabaret is not commenting on the case and has not yet filed a response to the complaint.
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