Taylor Swift Resisting Deposition About Trademarks and Perfumes
Taylor Swift might have to open up about her closely-followed business endeavors, but it will be up to a California judge to decide whether she should appear for a deposition.
The superstar singer is currently being sued by the Orange County-based clothing company Blue Sphere Inc. for selling “Lucky 13” apparel and, in partnership with a greeting card company, conducting a "Lucky 13" sweepstakes. Blue Sphere holds several registered trademarks on the "Lucky 13" mark and has alleged that Swift's merchandising is confusing consumers. But since the filing of the lawsuit, the plaintiff has backed away from one of the claims for trademark dilution.
Last September, a California federal judge rejected a motion to dismiss and allowed the parties to pursue discovery in advance of a trial currently scheduled for November, though it may be pushed back to January.
Given the green light to proceed, the plaintiff has undertaken a broad inquiry into the way Swift files trademark registrations and decides which marks to use. This investigation has potential to shed light on a lot of the speculation that occurred after Swift sought protection on "this sick beat" and other lines from her 1989 album.
Blue Sphere has also been researching Swift's endorsement deals and negotiations. Subpoenas have been served to Elizabeth Arden, Coca-Cola Company, Proctor & Gamble, Toyota Motor Sales and Papa John's, among others.
The interest in Elizabeth Arden is particularly acute after attorneys for the plaintiff noticed blog and social media posts from 2013 that referenced a "Lucky 13" fragrance. The plaintiffs believe that Swift and Arden may have considered naming a perfume as such before backing off. The plaintiff wants to know whether they conducted a trademark search and had early awareness that someone else held registration on "Lucky 13."
Arden is resisting a subpoena, and so is William Morris Endeavor, the agency that Blue Sphere's attorneys believe brokered negotiations.
Perhaps most importantly there is the question of whether Swift will have to testify under oath about her business dealings. A motion seeking to force her to sit for a deposition is being filed under seal, but other court papers hint that the issue could go beyond scheduling as the plaintiff has indicated a willingness to travel and depose her on a break from her tour.
Gary Rinkerman, an attorney for Blue Sphere, tells The Hollywood Reporter he's limited by what he can say about the matter, but does offer that, "Ms. Swift would prefer not to be deposed, and their attorneys are acting on it. We have come back with the argument that she is very much in charge of her business and can say yes or no to a trademark."
Swift's sophistication on business matters, like her well-publicized battles with Spotify and Apple, have been the subject of fawning news articles, but could end up harming her in this litigation if such savvy becomes evidence of how she plays a hands-on role in her commercial endeavors and was aware that "Lucky 13" was already trademarked. A deposition would surely address her well developed portfolio of trademarks, but could also venture into unexpected territory. It's become common for celebrities and corporate CEOs to see deposition demands and to fight them as a fishing expedition.
A source within Taylor's organization says they have filed a motion to quash the deposition request and adds, "Our side has submitted a sworn signed statement that says she has no relevant first hand knowledge of the allegations in their complaint. The defendants are opposing the effort to take the deposition because it is harassing and burdensome, especially in light of her lack of relevant knowledge and her 1989 world tour."
This article originally appeared in THR.com.