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Legal issues with my band name... annoying!

 
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jefflewis



Joined: 21 Nov 2005
Posts: 1272

PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 3:55 pm    Post subject: Legal issues with my band name... annoying! Reply with quote

Figured I'd post this here, maybe somebody might find it interesting! Here's an email I just sent to John S. Hall, the local antifolk lawyer... regarding some problems that just came up with my latest band name! - JL

Hi John!
Hope yr doing great, let me know if you have time to weigh in on my current situation, though I think I'm probably just screwed...
I change my band-name often, sometimes due to line-up changes, I've had 4 band names in the past three years due to having gone thru 4 different bass players... Last night at the Knitting Factory was my first gig as "Jeffrey Lewis & the Bolts" (based on the fact that my middle name is Lightning), and "Jeffrey Lewis & the Bolts" is the name on my brand new album artwork too, artwork which has already been slaved over for months (I did some elaborate album-illustration/design work, as I often like to do) and the finished approved art/design has been sent off to Rough Trade and everything, release-date set for October (tho presumably manufacturing has not begun). But when I got home from the gig I found an email from a west-coast band called The Bolts telling me I can't use the name - they are Disney-sponsored, and all kinds of other corporate-sponsored, Sprint, FOX, ugh... and they've already apparently demanded that a band of teenagers in Michigan called The Bolts drop their name (even tho the teenage band was around first, they didn't copyright the name). So now I feel stressed - I don't know if I should fight it, or do nothing and let Rough Trade go forward with the album-art as-is, wait and see what happens, or immediately start re-working the album art with another band name. Darn. I was very ready to settle into Jeffrey Lewis & the Bolts for a while, so nice and simple, and I was very happy to have the new album-artwork finally all finished and uploaded and behind me. But I guess it could be worse, the albums could be in stores and Disney could be demanding a recall.
Some possible variants, maybe these will get those dudes off my back, while being legally viable?
Jeffrey Lewis & The !Bolts!
Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts
Jeffrey Lewis & Les Bolts
Jeffrey Lewis & Las Bolts
The one that I like the best at the moment is Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts.
Or I could just scrap the whole Bolts thing and go completely back to the drawing board as far as coming up with yet another band name from scratch, blecch, not an appealing thought but maybe it's ultimately the smartest/easiest/wisest solution. I think I'd feel happier just using "Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts" for this album cycle, then moving on to another name next year or whenever.
On one hand, Bolts is just a very common word, there are probably other bands that use that word - and somehow Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers existed just fine at the same time as Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers... (not to mention a world full of "Wolf" bands and "Crystal" bands etc). BUT, admittedly, if I suddenly started calling myself "Jeffrey Aneurism & the Strokes" I'd probably hear from The Strokes about it quickly.
I guess my question is whether I have a legal leg to stand on, considering the word "bolts" is so common, or (more likely) whether I should just not waste another moment worrying about it, and just get to work changing all the album artwork to say "Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts" or something...
Feel free to charge me for any advice/time you wanna put into this, I can Paypal you if that's easiest, I know your time is worth money and you must get people asking you for legal advice left and right.
Catch you later!
Jeffrey

PS - here's the email I got from the Bolts band-

Hi Jeff-
I have a band that plays under a couple different names, one of them is called The Bolts the group has used that name since 2007 and is currently using the name for some of our legacy publishings and corporate gigs, including with Disney Parks; the name has a following and is generating revenue nationwide through some national marketing campaigns including for Sprint, FOX Sports, and other licensing. (See: https://www.youtube.com/user/theboltsofficial)

I am currently one of the owners of the trademark and have owned it for a few years now.

I have just received some notifications that say "The Bolts" are playing a sold out show at the Knitting Factory in New York tonight with Jeffrey Lewis, supporting Andrew Jackson Jihad. Of course, the five members are here in California right now http://bk.knittingfactory.com/tw-event/?event_id=5974725

I was curious why this may be and was hoping that you or someone on your team can help clear this up for us.

I apologize if this message comes as a surprise. Of course, I assume it's simply a matter of being unaware to the fact.

Thank you
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misshelenc



Joined: 23 Nov 2007
Posts: 730
Location: Cardiff, Wales, UK

PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stupid. I hate this stuff.
My mate Rhodri (well, I haven't seen him in years but...) played under the name Teflon Monkey for ages and then Teflon got the legal team there and went crazy, hunted all through the internet for any webpage with it on and printed it out and sent it to him (obviously most of it was other people's sites reviewing his gigs) and he had to do a clean up job quick or face thousands of pounds of legal fees. This is like, a little Welsh bloke with a guitar playing some tunes in small clubs once in a while. I was pretty disgusted.
I've known people in other bands have this problem too, another band getting in touch and being all threatening, all of which have amounted to pretty much nothing anyway. It seems that it's a major point of issue for some people.
I hope you find a way round the issue with your legal team, petty people are so annoying in every way. Get some real problems!
xxx
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jefflewis



Joined: 21 Nov 2005
Posts: 1272

PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AND, here's the response that I got from my lawyer friend... (By the way this is John S. Hall of the band King Missile, in addition to being a cool local lawyer he's a brilliant writer and performer! King Missile is really awesome.)

No need for payment. It's good to hear from you, but sorry to hear of your troubles.

When I was in law school, I formulated a theory of law called The Disney Rule, which states that Disney wins. They almost always do.

So I would go back to them with just what you suggest: say to the Bolts if that if they agree (in writting) that the "Los Bolts" name does not violate their trademark, then you will only use it for one album and tour cycle, after which you will change your name. But if they don't agree to that, you should consider starting from scratch.

It doesn't matter whether you have a legal right to use "Los Bolts." What matters is whether Disney will take you to court or not, and that is the big unknown. Fighting Disney would be very expensive, unless you found a lawyer that will do it for for free because s/he enjoys being a thorn in Disney's side. Such lawyers undoubtedly exist, but I don't know any offhand, and besides, Disney would probably get an injunction preventing you from using the name until the case was decided, which could take years.

So my advice is to go to them and suggest using "Los Bolts."

A second, more risky choice, would be to say that you are going to use "Los Bolts" and tell them that that name should be sufficiently different to avoid brand confusion. But you will still want them to acknowledge this. You could also point out that there failure to acknowledge this could be construed as trademark misuse.

A third choice is to start with the first plan and then go to the second plan if they refuse to agree.

If you write out an email to them and send it to me first, I can look at it and tell you what I think.

This is just friendly advice, not legal advice. I'm not allowed to give legal advice to anyone who isn't a client of the firm I work for. So I can't be your lawyer or charge you a fee. Not that I would want to charge you!

Good luck!
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misshelenc



Joined: 23 Nov 2007
Posts: 730
Location: Cardiff, Wales, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aww what a sweet man. What option did you go for? x
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jefflewis



Joined: 21 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SO I sent The Bolts band an email asking if they would be okay with me using the name "Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts" and they said they were okay with that. I suppose it could have been worse... but then I had to spend hours today re-working all of the album artwork, erasing all of the illustrations that said "the" bolts and re-patching it all up to say "los" bolts, on the LP front, LP back, LP spine, LP inner A-side and B-side stickers, LP insert artwork, then all over again for the CD front, CD back, CD spine, CD disc-face, and CD inner liner-art! Lots of stupid work to do, for a change that I didn't really want to make in the first place!
But at least I was able to get it all done, and re-uploaded it all to the record label. I hope this doesn't delay the release date, Rough Trade had told me that they were expecting an October 30 release date if all the materials were in on time ("on time" was like a few weeks ago...)
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jefflewis



Joined: 21 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AND this is the funny email that my drummer Heather suggested that I send to the band!

"We should say:
thanks for being in touch, we play under a couple of different names too, one of them is "jeffrey lewis & the bolts". i've actually been using that name (jeffrey lewis) since 1976, and have been performing since 2001. that's awesome that you guys get corporate licensing deals with disney, sprint and fox sports, we're actually a pretty small indie, underground live band and are kinda ethically opposed to the sort of corporate sell-out type stuff you guys do, so there's probably not much artistic or musical or venue overlap and it's doubtful anyone would ever confuse the two. plus it's such a generic, bland name, there are probably 50 other bands with "bolts" in their names, unless your lawyers have already gotten to them too.
but just to be sure, i'll give you my word not to do any derivative pap or subpar, uninventive, lowest common denominator corporate crap music, and maybe you can get your guys to agree not to do any intellectually challenging, wildly original genius anti-folk stuff and we should be cool.
thanks for reaching out!
yr pal jeff"
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misshelenc



Joined: 23 Nov 2007
Posts: 730
Location: Cardiff, Wales, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done, it's hard to do that much work when you're angry and frustrated, very impressive. Hopefully this will be the last of it and they can get on with feeling superior or whatever.
Haha at that joke email too.
xx
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andylips



Joined: 04 Sep 2009
Posts: 75

PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2015 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

man that sucks, good call on the Los Bolts thing, i think that was the best thing you could of done, given the situation.. That's such bullshit, think of all the bands that have "Peggy Sue" in the title, can bands sue other bands for having songs called "Untitled"? if so, a lot of bands are going to be fighting over who called their song Untitled first. My band is called KINKY and there is a mexico based band with the same name, we are diy punk, they have an MTV Unplugged album and thousands of fans (a quick search shows 1055537 likes, we have about 250 likes on facebook), if we ever get into this kind of crap I guess we're going to have to change our name to Kinkier/Kinkest/Too Kinky/.

fuck the man.
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Dav
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Joined: 30 Oct 2005
Posts: 2839
Location: Rennes, France

PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's bummer, i was so thrilled that you got The Bolt, my favorite disney band as a back up for this LP...
More seriously i found if quite wrong that disney sue and win people vaguely ripping anything disney connected as they made their fortune using stories that aren't theirs such as alice in wonderland or sleeping beauty, nothing illegal there but, come on...if there wasn't pixar to create origianl stuff disney would just be boring...
i was also suprised when they released the lion king as i remember vividly watching that japanese cartoon as a kid called the king Leo, was really really close to their lion king.

Los Bolt sound pretty cool though so i guess this end well...
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granfalloon



Joined: 21 Dec 2007
Posts: 72
Location: Virginia

PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jefflewis wrote:
AND this is the funny email that my drummer Heather suggested that I send to the band!

"We should say:
thanks for being in touch, we play under a couple of different names too, one of them is "jeffrey lewis & the bolts". i've actually been using that name (jeffrey lewis) since 1976, and have been performing since 2001. that's awesome that you guys get corporate licensing deals with disney, sprint and fox sports, we're actually a pretty small indie, underground live band and are kinda ethically opposed to the sort of corporate sell-out type stuff you guys do, so there's probably not much artistic or musical or venue overlap and it's doubtful anyone would ever confuse the two. plus it's such a generic, bland name, there are probably 50 other bands with "bolts" in their names, unless your lawyers have already gotten to them too.
but just to be sure, i'll give you my word not to do any derivative pap or subpar, uninventive, lowest common denominator corporate crap music, and maybe you can get your guys to agree not to do any intellectually challenging, wildly original genius anti-folk stuff and we should be cool.
thanks for reaching out!
yr pal jeff"
pretty cool bandmate there

and sorry about those litigious fux picking on you
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granfalloon



Joined: 21 Dec 2007
Posts: 72
Location: Virginia

PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jeffrey lewis y los bolts

it could even be pronounced hey-frey lewis y los bolts
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Dav
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Joined: 30 Oct 2005
Posts: 2839
Location: Rennes, France

PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

granfalloon wrote:
it could even be pronounced hey-frey lewis y los bolts


I had the same thought
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Fishkins



Joined: 31 Jan 2011
Posts: 18

PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2015 2:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's awful that people can be so litigious about this stuff, especially when another band had the name before them. My dad's small company received a similar lawsuit threat from a company associated with Jeb Bush, even though my dad's company had been around much longer. It seems so obnoxious and pointless.
Lucky you have such a cool lawyer friend to help out. Having to redo all the art sucks, but at least you're no longer running the risk of being associated with that Disney band!
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christian



Joined: 08 Jun 2015
Posts: 72

PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2015 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Juan Luis y los bolts?

Can you imagine if a first batch of CD's had been pressed with "the" instead of "los" bolts - those would be worth a fortune Very Happy
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