Vandals take on Variety

May 2011


Hollywood trade newspaper Variety has lost in its attempt to pursue a trademark claim in Delaware against the punk band The Vandals. This is just the first battle in the fight and whilst it has gone in favour of the band, it is not a decision on the substantive matter in the case – just the forum where the case will be heard. The case will now move to a California federal court, since Vandals bassist and lawyer Joe Escalante, who is representing the band in the lawsuit, is based in Los Angeles. The case goes back to a 2004 album by the band, their 10th, titled “Hollywood Potato Chip,” which posed the band’s name in lettering on the cover quite similar to the trademarked Variety logo. Reed Elsevier, Variety’s parent company, sent a cease-and-desist letter and entered into a settlement with the band, which agreed to change the cover art. The agreement stipulated that band members would have to pay $50,000 plus attorneys fees if the group ever reneged. It now seems that the offending image had popped up again on the band’s website and that of their label Kung Fu Records. The band claimed it wasn’t behind the breaches. In this first decision, the judge found that “the interests of justice overwhelmingly favor allowing this case to proceed in the Central District of California” since the vast majority of documents and witnesses are based there. Escalante has since posted on the Vandals website criticising Variety’s lawyers for pursuing this case at all and Escalante clearly feels that the spoof of the Variety logo  would have been protected by first amendment free speech rights had the magazine’s original legal complaint ever actually reached court, which does make one wonder why the band then settled ……,0,7982701.story

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