Rock world trademark fight offers lesson for those in other areas

The rock band Boston has been around for decades. Over those years, the band has racked up a lot of name recognition. And every musician who has ever played with the group has likely sought to capitalize in some way or another on that association.

Intellectual property rights held in the form of copyrights, trademarks and otherwise can be leveraged to how affiliations are claimed and communicated, however. And that is something that is common to all businesses, whether the IP is associated with arts, ecology, biosciences, robotics, or any technology-related industry.

Managing the legal aspects of IP rights can be very complicated. Most of the time, issues are anticipated with the goal of avoiding them. But as a recent bout of suit-countersuit involving two members of Boston reflects, occasionally disputes wind up in court and then things can be confusing.

In the matter we write about here, founding Boston member Donald Scholz sued one-time bandmate Barry Goudreau claiming trademark infringement. The specific claim made was that Goudreau had breached a contract by letting promoters use impermissible language regarding his former affiliation with Boston in biographical material. Goudreau countersued saying Scholz breached the contract, too, and further, that his suit represented abuse of process because it apparently was inspired purely by spite.

The original district court handling the case granted summary judgments on various elements of the case against both parties. And a jury that heard remaining issues at trial delivered verdicts in favor of the defendants on the residual claims.

Both Scholz and Goudreau appealed the district court’s results to the First Circuit federal court of appeals. That court rejected the appeals and affirmed all the determinations made by the district court.

Strong prosecution of IP portfolio elements is part and parcel of any experienced IP law firm’s function. So, rights holders have good reason to want to be confident in the skills and experience of the counsel they work with.

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