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Will the Woof-Tang-Clan be brought to heel?

View profile for Christopher Buck
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American rap group, Wu-Tang-Clan, is currently looking to pursue a New York dog walking group, Woof-Tang-Clan, for breach of copyright and Trade Marks. The group claims that Woof-Tang-Clan’s attempt to trademark their name is in breach of their rights.

After seeking legal advice, Marty Cuatchon for Woof-Tang-Clan explained "I am a fan. We walk dogs. I thought it was a good idea." This is not the first time that somebody has used this play on words, as there is an Alaskan Dog Sled Team sporting the name ‘Woof-Tang-Clan’ also.

Is Wu-Tang-Clan’s bark worse than their bite or will they be found to have legitimate claims against the New York company regarding breaches of copyright and Trade Marks?

Copyright

Copyright is simply a right to prevent copying. Copyright arises automatically and protects artistic output, it therefore requires no registration. Generally it prevents unauthorised copying of a work for the lifetime of the author of the work, and for 70 years after the end of the calendar year of that author's death. However, the Copyright protection for artistic items which are mass produced is currently restricted to 25 years.

In the U.K. a successful finding of a breach of copyright can see the following remedies being granted:

  • injunctions;
  • costs;
  • damages (most common remedy sought); and
  • delivery up/destruction.

Breach of a Trade Mark

The protection granted by Trade Marks prevents others from using the protected marks otherwise the owner’s rights would be infringed.

Words, letters and numbers are just three of many marks which can be protected by Trade Marks. Other marks include any of the following: slogans; gestures; designs; smells; sounds; and internet domain names.

If someone then uses a Registered Trade Mark in relation to identical or similar goods or services, or takes unfair advantage of it, an infringement action can be pursued. Any such infringement is automatically illegal provided the registration is valid, and hence strict liability is imposed upon an infringer. This protection lasts indefinitely for 10 years running from the date of filing the application of registration. The protection can then be renewed for further periods of 10 years, subject to renewal fees being paid.

Should you require legal assistance in relation to understanding or obtaining Trade Marks, or copyright protection our intellectual property specialists would be delighted to assist.

If you have been considering applying for a Trade Mark and require assistance, or if you would like further information in relation to registered or unregistered Trade Marks and/or copyright please feel free to contact me, or one of our team on 01908 660 966.

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