Madonna might be living in a material world, but her hold on the phrase “Material Girl” is legally dubious. A federal judge in California has rejected the pop star’s argument that she has established trademark primacy over “Material Girl” for a line of clothing just because she created a song by the same name in 1985.
Madonna and her company, Material Girl Brand, are fighting a lawsuit brought last year by LA Triumph, an L.A.-based clothing retailer that claims to have been selling “Material Girl” clothing since 1997 and has a registered trademark.
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In response, the singer attempted to get the lawsuit tossed by presenting evidence she created a hit song that brought “Material Girl” to fame more than 25 years ago. In court papers, Madonna said she is the Material Girl, and she was the first user starting in 1985.
California Judge S. James Otero isn’t impressed.
“Defendants’ argument that Madonna created the ‘Material Girl’ mark through her performances fails as a matter of law,” the judge writes in an order denying summary judgment. “This Court and other courts have recognized that the singing of a song does not create a trademark.”
The judge also rejected arguments that $85 million worth of “Material Girl” related merchandise sales in the 1980s is enough to establish being the “senior trademark user” because concert paraphernalia doesn’t strictly equate to clothing sales. But Juse Otero will allow the jury to hear evidence about this at a trial, scheduled for October.
If the company lives up to its name, LA Triumph might force Madonna to pick a new name for her clothing at outlets like Macy’s, a co-defendant in the case.