As initially reported by the Hollywood Reporter, Van Halen has filed a lawsuit against its drummer’s ex-wife, Kelly Van Halen. The suit alleges misuse of the iconic name, with “infringement of registered trademark,” “trademark dilution,” “false designation,” and “common law trademark infringement” among several legal accusations.
Formerly Kelly Carter before her marriage to Alex Van Halen in 1984, Ms. Van Halen kept her last name for almost twenty years after the divorce papers had been finalized. Kelly Van Halen subsequently used her legal name as the basis for her construction and interior design company, selling products such as chairs, children’s blankets, bathing suits, and interior design services.
ELVH Inc., the intellectual property holding company for the band, is taking Kelly to a California federal court to challenge her right to take part in a commercial enterprise using a family name.
For a little “FYI,” an 1891 Supreme Court ruling stated that “A man’s name is his own property, and he has the same right to its use and enjoyment as he has to that of any other species of property. If such use be a reasonable, honest, and fair exercise of such right, he is no more liable for the incidental damage he may do a rival in trade than he would be for injury to his neighbor’s property by the smoke issuing from his chimney, or for the fall of his neighbor’s house by reason of necessary excavation upon his own land.”
Kelly Van Halen may have the right to use her name – after all, it is legally hers – but the outcome of the case may depend on whether or not she has the purpose of trading upon the mere reputation of the band’s moniker and image.
In argument, the band is opposed to the “Kelly Van Halen” trademark because it is “confusingly similar to Plaintiff’s Van Halen makes in sound, appearance, and commercial impression” and that it is
“likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception as to the source of origin of Defendant’s goods in that the public, the trade and others are likely to believe that Plaintiff’s good are: (a) the same as Plaintiff’s; or (b) provided by, sponsored by, approved by, licensed by, affiliated with or in some other way legitimately connected to Plaintiff.”
So is this a legitimate complaint, or a mere matter of bullying?
Image by Rock Cousteau, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)