Doobie Brothers Sue Venture Capitalist's '70s Cover Band The Doobie Decibel System
The Doobie Brothers didn’t give much thought to their band name in the early 1970s -- a friend suggested it because they smoked so much -- but the classic rock combo has since taken a protective stance on the moniker and have a new trademark lawsuit to prove it. On Friday, Doobie Brothers Corp. and Doobro Entertainment sued a folk-rock cover duo called the Doobie Decibel System (DDS), arguing the group’s name is "confusingly similar" to theirs.
According to the lawsuit, the band successfully trademarked the words "Doobie Brothers" and "Doobies" for musical performances in 1982. The cover band has been playing out for less than a year and is seemingly a side project for Jason Crosby and Roger McNamee, two seasoned musicians based in Northern California. Crosby (no relation to David) has played with Robert Randolph, Bob Weir, Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton, according to his website; McNamee is a member of jam band Moonalice and is the co-founder of multi-billion dollar private equity firms Silver Lake Partners and Elevation Partners, the latter of which he started with U2's Bono.
McNamee's music career was profiled by the Wall Street Journal in 2012. Here's DDS performing a Buffalo Springfield song:
The Doobies see DDS as a direct competitor because they perform rock songs from the same era as the band’s '70s heyday. The plaintiffs say the cover band’s name is "highly phonetically and visually similar" to theirs and point out that they present the word "Doobie" larger than "Decibel System" when advertising performances. Crosby and McNamee’s use of "Doobie" in their band’s name exhibits "willful intent to trade on the fame and reputation, or to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive consumers" into thinking they’re about to hear hits like "Listen to the Music" or "What a Fool Believes."
DDS' logo consists of a raccoon smoking a huge joint, with the band’s name typed out in psychedelic-style lettering. The Doobie Brothers' logo usually consists of an eagle and the band’s initials separating the words Doobie and Brothers.
The word "doobie" is one of many slang terms for a marijuana cigarette and is still used in that context, though perhaps not as often as "joint," its abbreviation "J," or "blunt." According to the Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, the word "doobie" may have originated from '50s children's television show Romper Room, in which kids were told to be "good do-be's."
The band does not claim to have invented the word "doobie," but argues that the word "has no meaning in the music industry other than to identify" their recordings, performances and other services.
The Doobie Brothers want DDS to stop using the name immediately and are seeking punitive damages for trademark infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition. They also want an accounting of all earnings by the cover band since their inception.
Lawrence Townsend of San Francisco-based firm Owen, Wickersham & Erickson is representing the Doobies in the lawsuits, which was filed in U.S. District Court of Northern California. Requests for comment from Townsend, Crosby and DDS were not immediately returned.