The two major movie studios involved with the recently released A Bee Movie were sued for alleged trademark infringement and unfair competition over their use of the mark GIVE BEES A CHANCE in promoting A Bee Movie. BeeCeuticals LLC filed its case in federal court in Florida, claiming that DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation started using BeeCeuticals’ mark GIVE BEES A CHANCE shortly after BeeCeuticals representatives met with DreamWorks and Paramount to propose a joint marketing strategy involving the slogan.
The lawsuit alleges that, since September 2006, BeeCeuticals has been using GIVE BEES A CHANCE to promote its honey-based cosmetic products and to provide information and sponsor events relating to bees and bee products. BeeCeuticals also owns a pending application for a federal trademark registration for its GIVE BEES A CHANCE mark.
BeeCeuticals alleges that it has used the slogan over 400 times in broadcasts on Howard Stern’s satellite radio show since March 2007. Plaintiff claims that one of the managing members of BeeCeuticals, Richie Gerber, is Howard Stern’s cousin and plays the radio personality “Cousin Richie” on Stern’s show. The complaint alleges that Cousin Richie uses the slogan as part of his act to promote BeeCeuticals’ products and for its entertainment value.
In April and May 2007, BeeCeuticals’ representatives purportedly met with defendants and presented a marketing proposal including, among other things, use of the mark GIVE BEES A CHANCE in connection with A Bee Movie and BeeCeuticals. DreamWorks and Paramount are accused of starting to use GIVE BEES A CHANCE shortly thereafter in connection with promoting A Bee Movie and without permission from BeeCeuticals.
The complaint also asserts that BeeCeuticals sent a cease and desist letter to defendants and engaged in preliminary settlement negotiations prior to filing the lawsuit. Settlement negotiations, however, allegedly broke down and BeeCeuticals filed suit after defendants refused to provide assurances that they would not use the mark in the future.
Plaintiff seeks damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, an accounting of defendants’ profits and an order enjoining defendants from future use of the mark, among other things.
BeeCeuticals v. DreamWorks et al. was only recently filed. It is unclear what direction the case will take or how defendants will respond. Nonetheless, the filing of this lawsuit underscores the fact that even major companies making movies, as well as those producing other products and services directed toward children, can face a risk of trademark litigation. Indeed, as this case illustrates, even small national companies that own unregistered trademarks could present a risk of litigation and therefore, such risks should be evaluated and weighed carefully prior to launching any national advertising campaign.
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