Commodores take further action against founder member’s continued use of their name

May 2018



Commodores Entertainment Corp, the corporate body behind the current incarnation of The Commodores, has asked a court in Florida to consider sanctioning a founder member of the group, Thomas McClary, as part of a long-running trademark dispute citing McClary’s continued use of Commodores Trade Marks despite a court order that should prevent him from doing this.

The band formed in 1968 when two other bands mergeed: oLionel Richie, Thomas McClary, and William King jopined from the Mystics, and Andre Callahan, Michael Gilbert, and Milan Williams were from the Jays. Renowned for the R&B hits which include “Just to Be Close to You,” “Easy,” and “Brickhouse” the group is credited with seven number one songs and a host of other Top Ten hits on the Billboard charts, and their vast catalogue includes more than 50 albums.

King, a founder member who chose the band’s name, is part of the current line-up of The Commodores and McClary is accused of infringing the group’s trademark and violating a 2016 court order by staging shows under the name ‘The Commodores Experience featuring Thomas McClary’. In fact the case goes back to 2014 when CEC first took legak action against McClary over his use of the Commodores brand for his live shows. Two years later a court banned McClary from using the Commodores trademark which, it ruled, belonged to CEC. The Commodores now consist of Walter “Clyde” Orange, James Dean “J.D.” Nicholas, and William “WAK” King, along with their five-piece band, known as the “Mean Machine”. The group continues to perform, playing at arenas, theaters, and festivals around the world.

McClary’s undertanding of the injunction was clearly different to that of King and CEC, and so another order was obtained that banned McClary from using billing which would include wording for a performance that was by “Commodores’ founder Thomas McClary”. A US court has concluded would also be likely confuse fans as to whether they were buying tickets for a Commodores show or a McClary solo show.

Now CEC says that McClary has been using the Commodores’s Trade Marks on his social channels and in promotions for upcoming music festival appearances. CEC said in its court filing: “Mr McClary calling his band ‘The Commodores Experience‘, ‘Commodores’ Experience‘ or ‘Commodore’s Experience’ is likely to cause additional consumer confusion, is not historically accurate and is not using CEC’s marks in fair use”. King and CEC have asked the court to order McClary to demonstrate why he should not be held in contempt of the 2016 injunction and therefore sanctioned.

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