The U.S. appellate court for the federal circuit in Washington has rejected the appeal of Karen Willis, wife of the original policeman of the Village People, to cancel two trademarks for the musical group. The case has been reported by Law 360, among others, and the TTABlog offers a wry, um, lyrical take on this matter. It has wended its way through courts, with some key takeaways along the way.Willis lost her first battle with the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeals Board, which ruled that she had not established grounds for her case to cancel two Village People trademarks for live performance and recorded music. The Board granted summary judgment against her three claims of fraud and misrepresentation including that the term “VILLAGE PEOPLE” is a generic term for musical recordings, that Can’t Stop Productions had abandoned the trademark, and that Village People is not a “musical and vocal group” as claimed in the trademark registrations because the members lip-sync rather than sing as a group.
The Board allowed her to file an amended petition for her fraud claim that the “VILLAGE PEOPLE” mark has not been used on audio recordings since 1985, so that issue was not part of the appeal.
Federal Circuit judges Prost, Moore, and O’Malley found her arguments lacking merit and affirmed the Board’s earlier decision.
The Willis family has had mixed results in litigation. ArtsBeat reported that earlier this year, Victor Willis won a copyright termination lawsuit for his share of 33 songs, including YMCA against Scorpio Music and Can’t Stop Productions.
U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz in Los Angeles wrote a key decision, saying “The Court concludes that a joint author who separately transfers his copyright interest may unilaterally terminate the grant.” The publishers also lost their bid to keep Willis’ compensation at the previous contracted level, opening the door for other singers-songwriters to increase their percentage yields when copyright terminations take effect in 2013.