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Former Member of Steppenwolf Is Who He Says He Is
Description Appeals court held that a former member of the band Steppenwolf has the right to identify himself as such. To do so is not trademark infringement. He never contracted away the right to refer truthfully to his past position. There would be no confusion on the part of consumers if the former association were properly stated.
Topic Intellectual Property
Key Words Trademark; Infringement; Consumer Confusion; Lanham Act
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Kassbaum, professionally known as Nick St. Nicholas, was a member of the rock band Steppenwolf from 1968 to 1971. He filed a complaint in federal court seeking a declaration that he is not barred from referring to himself as a former member of Steppenwolf. At the request of Steppenwolf Productions, the district court dismissed his complaint. Kassbaum appealed.
Decision Reversed. When Kassbaum left the band he did not, by contract, waive any right that would preclude him from truthfully stating that he was a former member of the band. The band's trademark is to allow customers to identify the sponsor or provider of the service. If there was a likelihood of confusion by consumers then there could be trademark infringement. However, there will be no confusion by consumers if Kassbaum identifies himself as a former member of Steppenwolf; so to do so would not constitute infringement.
Citation Kassbaum v. Steppenwolf Productions, Inc., 236 F.3d 487 (9th Cir., 2000)

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