Reality show sued for trademark infringement, other claims.
Tonight's winner of the television reality show, Rock Star: Supernova, may not end up fronting a band called Supernova. In a trademark dispute over the name, a federal court yesterday (Sept. 12) issued a preliminary injunction against the show's producers, siding with a punk-rock band "from outer space" that once performed in their silver space suits over the new band formed by Tommy Lee, Jason Newsted and Gilby Clarke.
Supernova from Cynot3 sued Mark Burnett Productions, Lee, his bandmates and others in June for trademark infringement and other claims. After a court proceeding yesterday, the federal District Court in San Diego ordered Mark Burnett Productions, Rockstar Entertainment and Burnett-affiliated JMBP Inc. to stop using the name "Supernova" in connection with performing, recording or selling rock 'n' roll music until a full trial – or another court order – takes place.
The order goes into effect as soon as Supernova from Cynot3 posts a bond, which the group cannot do until the judge determines an amount that would sufficiently protect the producers from damages for stopping their use if they ultimately win the case.
The injunction is not expected to affect the television production or series, Burnett Production's attorney, Gary Hecker with the Hecker Law Group in Los Angeles, tells Billboard.biz. The punk band dismissed Lee, Newsted and Clarke from the lawsuit and did not include CBS Television in their request for the injunction, he says.
"This is sweet justice," says John Mizhir, Jr. with Fish & Richardson in San Diego. "The band members have worked hard for the past 17 years to establish the name Supernova, and they are entitled to continue to perform without any other parties - large or small - infringing on their rights.”
The punk band claims that they own trademark rights for Supernova under so-called common-law, so there is no federal registration for that name that a database search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would have revealed. They claim that these rights are based on using the name as a rock band that performed in-concert nationwide and in Canada in 1994-1996 and in 1999. Their records are still sold on seven retail Web sites, the band claims.
The producers argued that they purchased rights to Supernova from someone else who held a registered federal trademark in "Supernova Multi-Directional Music Ensemble Nasar Abadey." They also argued that Supernova from Cynot3 abandoned their rights several years ago after they stopped writing or performing – and after switching careers – until the Rock Star: Supernova show began.
In a 26-page opinion, the court held that the older band did not appear to "intend" to abandon their rights even though they have not performed or recorded for some years. Since the names are substantially similar and are used in connection with rock music, the court issued a preliminary injunction.
Hecker says that he does not believe the punk band's intent is to completely stop the new band from using the name Supernova, but to simply distinguish itself from the older band. He adds that the injunction is not expected to affect the upcoming tour fronted by tonight's winning vocalist.