Court rules against SparkNet.

In a legal upset for the owners of the "playing what we want" trademark, a U.S. District Court has ruled in favor of Bonneville International in an infringement case brought against the broadcaster by SparkNet Communications.

SparkNet, a joint venture between Vancouver-based consultant Pat Bohn and Nashville-based consultant Garry Wall, sued Bonneville in May for infringing its trademark on stations in St. Louis, Phoenix, Chicago and San Francisco.
SparkNet claimed that Bonneville's use of the slogans "70's, 80's... whatever we want," "70's, 80's... whatever we feel like," and "today's new music... and whatever we want" were confusingly similar to its "playing what we want" trademark. The consultancy has licensed the slogan and the "Jack FM" trademark to 15 stations in the U.S., including Infinity outlets in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.

In a ruling issued Monday (September 12), the Chicago-based court wrote that Bonneville's use of the slogans were descriptive and did not rise to the level of infringement. Bonneville's slogans "fairly describe the music it plays and its slogans are used in connection with its own radio frequencies and station names," the ruling states. The court also said that Bonneville does not compete unfairly with SparkNet.

"If every radio station that adopts a slogan containing one or more overlapping words, which describe the music they play, is brought to court, only the lawyers will benefit," Judge Morton Denlow wrote.

It remains to be seen if Denlow's counterpart in San Diego will reach a similar conclusion. SparkNet has a case pending against Clear Channel in a U.S. district court there, alleging that Clear Channel is a cyber squatter and trademark infringer.

The San Diego suit claims that Clear Channel's use of the URL for KMYI (My 94.1) San Diego is without legal right. SparkNet also alleges that usage of the slogan "playing whatever we want" on Clear Channel's WLTY (Steve FM) Columbia, S.C. is infringing and that the slogan "playing whether the hell we want" airing on KDRB (The Bus) Des Moines is "confusingly similar" to SparkNet's trademark.