The shocking news of Prince’s death has fans, new and old, turning to their Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music apps, only to find them barren of his hits. If you don’t feel like driving to your local record store or spending money on iTunes, unfortunately, your options for listening to His Royal Badness are limited.
The Connecticut brothers who built a successful clothing company that embodies the prepster lifestyle of Martha’s Vineyard have stirred up a nor’easter for a Rehoboth Beach T-shirt shop.
Vineyard Vines LLC, a company started by Ian and Shep Murray in 1998, has sued Rehoboth Lifestyle Clothing Co. for selling tops and sweatshirts that say “rehoboth” and are embroidered with big smiling whales. The jaunty-tailed whales bear a striking resemblance to the iconic trademark seen on the Murrays’ high-end ties, shirts, jackets, dresses and other products, the lawsuit alleges.
The way the Stamford, Connecticut, company sees it, Rehoboth Lifestyle is infringing on its registered trademark and diluting its “famous trademark,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. Vineyard Vines clothing, which has been spotted on movie stars and several presidents, is pricey, with a cotton dress shirt selling for $128 on the company’s website. […]
I doubt a court would find that the Vineyard Vines whale, even as popular, well-known and iconic as it may be, is indeed a “famous mark” as that term is defined under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act. Bigger ‘fish’ have tried and failed. The short list includes: XEROX, KODAK, COCA-COLA, and REEBOK. Read more about trademark dilution and famous mark cases. But it seems that Vineyard Vines has a strong case in establishing the “likelihood” of confusion. Actual confusion of consumers is not required.
I was quoted in the article to explain why it is important for trademark owners to police and to protect their marks. The consequences of not doing so could be extremely costly to their brand and business. And the failure to police may also lead to “genericide”, causing the owners to lose their exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the sale of its goods and services. Common examples of well-known companies whose marks became generic
In the article, I also explained the general purposes of trademark law. Read the full article:
So what do you think? Are consumers likely to be confused, even if initially, by the local t-shirt company’s mirror-image, stylized pink whale? More specifically, is it more likely than not that some consumer might be confused? If so, what’s the harm?
My interest in Dolezal’s story is not in the racial identity and misrepresentation morass. I’ll leave that to the Twitterverse (#RachelDolezal#AskRachel) and media. But the recent copyright infringement question about the origins of some of her artwork caught my eye.
As HuffingtonPost arts writer Priscilla Frank reported today, Dolezal, … is also an award-winning Mixed Media Artist, according to her art blog. But questions have been raised about whether Dolezal actually created all of her artwork or whether she misappropriated, in at least one instance, the work of another and presented it as her own.
Infringement? No. But there is a strong argument for plagiarism. Review the images and explanations below to understand why and share your thoughts about the issue.
“Rachel Dolezal is an award-winning Mixed Media Artist with over 20 exhibitions in 13 states, internationally, and at the United Nations Headquarters. Dolezal completed her Master of Fine Arts at Howard University, where she majored in experimental studio and minored in sculpture. She has over 10 years experience in community development, human rights education, and intercultural negotiations. She is currently an Art Instructor at North Idaho College, Adjunct Professor of African American Culture at Eastern Washington University, Advisor for the NIC Black Student Association, speaker, education consultant, and exhibiting artist.”
A Comparison of the Works
Below is the image under scrutiny that Dolezal claims as her original, copyrighted work:
In my humble opinion, they appear nearly identical. Dolezal’s work seems to be a tighter POV of Turner’s painting, with de minimis modifications of color and tone. Commenters knowledgeable about Turner’s work immediately questioned Dolezal’s claims that she created the work presumably without “inspiration”.
But this isn’t a case of copyright infringement. And here’s why.