Last Wednesday, TTNA, Inc. (“TTNA”), owner of the Baby Dolls Saloon strip clubs in Texas, filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit against New York-based Baby Dolls Cabaret Ltd. (“Baby Dolls Cabaret”).
Can TTNA strip Baby Dolls Cabaret of its name (and profits)?
TTNA’s Clubs and Trademark Registrations
TTNA is the owner of strip clubs named Baby Dolls Saloon in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, as well as six federally registered BABY DOLLS and BABY DOLLS-formative word marks (two registrations each for BABY DOLLS, BABY DOLLS SALOON and BABY DOLLS TOPLESS SALOON) (the “Marks”).
The Marks – all filed in 2000 by D. Burch, Inc. and later assigned to TTNA – cover night club services and “entertainment services, in the nature of adult topless stage revues and performances.” According to filings made with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), TTNA’s predecessor-in-interest began using the Marks in commerce at least as early as 1980.
Baby Dolls Cabaret and TTNA’s Trademark Infringement Lawsuit
In August 2014, Baby Dolls Cabaret (a strip club) apparently opened its doors in Fredonia, New York. Between August and October 2015, TTNA allegedly delivered cease-and-desist correspondence to Baby Dolls Cabaret. However, as of this writing, it appears that Baby Dolls Cabaret has not ceased operations or changed its name.
On February 3, 2016, TTNA initiated a civil action against Baby Dolls Cabaret in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas for allegedtrademark infringement, false advertising and false designation of origin (Case No. 3:16-cv-00305-M). TTNA is seeking enhanced monetary damages from Baby Dolls Cabaret’s alleged infringement of the Marks, disgorgement of profits and injunctive relief to prevent Baby Dolls Cabaret from using the Marks, the identifier “Baby Dolls” or any confusing variation thereof.
Naming Your Business or Brand? Proceed with Caution
Most entrepreneurs are well aware of the time and resources that go into keeping a business afloat, from business entity formation costs, to rent, payroll, utilities and insurance. As the above-mentioned case demonstrates, it is also essential that businesses conduct a thorough trademark clearance search before committing to a new business or brand name.
Unanticipated trademark infringement lawsuits can prove fatal. Therefore, as early as possible in the creative process, names, logos, designs, slogans and other business branding features should be carefully vetted by an experienced intellectual property attorney to minimize the risk of unwelcome legal surprises down the road from third-party brand owners.