Woof-Tang Clan, a Brooklyn-based dog walking and dog sitting company has been sued by RZA, producer and rapper for the music group Wu-Tang Clan, founded in 1993. RZA, born Robert Diggs, claims there has been breach of copyright and trade mark infringement from the dog company which he claims has not only taken their name from the group, but also sold T-shirts that depict dogs on classic hip-hop album covers including albums by the Wu-Tang Clan as well as groups such as De La Soul.
Court papers state that Wu-Tang Clan’s name and logo were, “unmistakably associated” with the group, and that Woof-Tang Clan’s trade mark application infringes the group’s trade mark rights. The Wu-Tang clan released their latest album, ‘The Saga Continues’ in 2017 and have been recording and releasing music for over 20 years.
Marty Cuatchon, owner of Woof-Tang Clan and self-proclaimed fan of the Wu-Tang Clan, said he is aware of the claim and is seeking advice. He has claimed that his company walks, “the illest group of dogs in New York City,” and that his staff are, “courteous and responsible, as long as we’re in agreement that Nas’ Illmatic is the greatest album of all time.” Cuatchon is not the first however to use this particular name. An Alaskan dog sled team is also called the Woof-Tang Clan.
Whilst the use of parody titles is commonplace in amateur sports teams, when used to brand a commercial business the legal consequences are often not worth the hassle. UK Fish and Chip shop Frying Nemo encountered the same problems from Disney’s legal team and eventually changed its name, as did Jedi Mind Technology who was sued by LucasFilm, owner of the famous Star Wars franchise.
It is paramount to think carefully about how to brand your business, and if you decide to name yourself (even in jest!) after a famous brand then specialist advice should be sought to consider the risks.
For any aspect of Intellectual Property advice and overall strategy, please get in touch with the ip21 team.
Richard Jones, Business Relationship Manager for ip21 Ltd.