Legal battle over ukulele orchestra name

Rick Turner

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The thing is...TUKUO's use of that name is just a sleazy attempt at riding coattails. But I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there is some deep history of rivalry among some of all the folks involved. The naming was clearly a provocative move. I have no idea what the laws are in the UK regarding trade marks and intellectual property. Such laws did allow a sleaze-bag to adopt the name...my name..."Turner Guitars" without my permission or knowledge until way past any time I could have contested it. Luckily, the USPTO (Patent and Trademark Organization) would not let him use that brand name here in the US although he's using it in the UK and perhaps in Europe too. I have been making guitars under my name since 1979, and there are a number of them in Europe and the UK, and I've been written about there as well.

So sometimes we just have to choose our battles with the sleaze-bags.
 

Rick Turner

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That's a very (or from my point of view, overly) generous viewpoint, and I hope it's not one that could stand up in court. It's kind of like if I decided to make "Kemaka" or "Moore Than Bettah" brand ukes. How's that for satire?

As I see it, this is satire with intent to deceive. The motives are financial, not artistic.
 

Nickie

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I think I already noted that imitation is the highest form of flattery....however, it also denotes a huge lack of originality.
But maybe originality isn't what is needed here. UOGB is in such high demand, that maybe what was needed was a great copy cat band to fill in the gaps, make that great genre available to more people. They should have named it something a little different tho....
I caN'T wait for UOGB to come again.....and if the other guys come too, I'll pay to go see them!
(I wonder if I can start a uke club and call it the TAmpa Bay Ukulele Society?)

JK
 

chefuke

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The use of the name is part of the satyrical nature of the act. Its a twisted version of the tradition of the camped up Carry On movies genre of British humour. This is just my opinion of course. People who watch ukulele groups with a superior attitude and who refuse to join in will love TUKUO and will see some humour. Ukulele players wont like being satirised and will wish they spent the money on the other group, buying CDs if a concert is not available.
I get amazed when people who claim to love irony and satire don't seem to recognise it when something they like is being satirised, but they can't stop laughing at satire and irony that is about things they don't like. A very strange phenomonomomonen.

Nailed it! I share your opinion. Further I find it ironic that its coming from a group that covers other artists songs.
 

RichM

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What's new, the legal and justice system stinks

I think that's a bit of a leap. UOGB was seeking an injunction against UKUO. I can't speak for UK law, but under US law, an injunction is a fairly extreme (and rare) step. An injunction isn't a finding of liability; it's an acknowledgment by the court that one party would be so damaged by another party's actions, that the second party must stop until a judgment is made. For example, if you and I have a dispute over the ownership of a house, and I am about to have the house demolished, a judge might issue an injunction; if I demolish the house and you are found to be the rightful owner, there is no way you could get the house back. The judge wouldn't be saying that YOU own the house; simply that nobody can demolish the house until it is determined who owns it.

Here, UOGB was asking for an injunction because the felt UKUO was so damaging them, that the court needed to preclude UKUO's behavior until there was a determination that UKUO had infringed on UOGB's brand. That's a pretty tall order to prove, and I'm not surprised that the court didn't buy it. That doesn't mean UOGB doesn't have a case-- just that the court won't make a decision until they have heard all the facts.
 

Jim Yates

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kingston trio.jpg Brothers four.jpg highwaymen.jpg

I wonder if the Kingston Trio ever considered suing...or perhaps the Weavers.
 

sukie

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View attachment 72740 View attachment 72741 View attachment 72742

I wonder if the Kingston Trio ever considered suing...or perhaps the Weavers.
But the names here are quite different. That's important. Plus the trio is 3, not 4. I will venture to guess if the names of the ukuleles groups were not so similar there wouldn't be much of a problem. But right now people are getting confused. The UOGB certainly can't stop other ukulele orchestras from doing similar music. But the second orchestra's name is confusing people.
 

Sabantien

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I think I already noted that imitation is the highest form of flattery....however, it also denotes a huge lack of originality.
But maybe originality isn't what is needed here. UOGB is in such high demand, that maybe what was needed was a great copy cat band to fill in the gaps, make that great genre available to more people. They should have named it something a little different tho....
I caN'T wait for UOGB to come again.....and if the other guys come too, I'll pay to go see them!
(I wonder if I can start a uke club and call it the TAmpa Bay Ukulele Society?)

JK

This comment makes me think of tribute bands, where the tribute band takes a name similar to the original band, or one of their songs.

Bjorn Again or BABBA.
KISSTERIA.
Zeppelin Live.
Rolling Stoned.

There's probably thousands of them. But it's probably rare for a tribute band to cover a cover band.
 

Jon Moody

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But the names here are quite different. That's important. Plus the trio is 3, not 4. I will venture to guess if the names of the ukuleles groups were not so similar there wouldn't be much of a problem. But right now people are getting confused. The UOGB certainly can't stop other ukulele orchestras from doing similar music. But the second orchestra's name is confusing people.

This is the point; the names are similar enough that people are getting confused, and it is costing the UOGB money.

I'd wager to say that the people that don't see an issue with this have either never 1. gigged professionally, where your name carries a LOT of weight, or 2. worked at a place where a competitor's product was named similarly enough that you had to file a suit.
 

ohmless

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I fit under number one but that isnt' why I don't see it as a big deal. It is because the only words in common are ukulele orchestra. Why must we ban all instances of someone calling themselves an ukulele orchestra because it has part of the name of another group? Just because the names are similar in your view doesn't mean the name actually is for everybody.


And is it really costing them money? I will hazard the guess that they never played in the same town at the same time to definitively show tangible losses. If anything it is costing the lesser known band more in refunds.
 
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RichM

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This is the point; the names are similar enough that people are getting confused, and it is costing the UOGB money.

I'd wager to say that the people that don't see an issue with this have either never 1. gigged professionally, where your name carries a LOT of weight, or 2. worked at a place where a competitor's product was named similarly enough that you had to file a suit.

Agreed. There is also a lot of confusion in this thread regarding what UOGB's issue is. Specifically:

1. UOGB does not claim to have exclusive rights to the concept of ukulele orchestras, ukulele combos, wearing formal dress, or performing pop songs on ukuleles.
2. UOGB *does* claim that forming a ukulele orchestra that wears formal dress and performs pop songs on ukuleles and names themselves something very similar may 1. Infringe on UOGB's brand, and 2. Mislead people into believing they are patronizing UOGB when they are not, and 3. Devalue UOGB's brand and harm their ability to do business.

These are legitimate concerns which may or may not be proven in court. However, to my eye, UKUO did copy UOGB's act, which was unique and specific. UOGB is just trying to protect what they created, and feed their families, just like we all do.
 

ohmless

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i guess there are many orchestras that will have to stop wearing formal wear, playing classical music, and calling themselves an orchestra if a single group complains that also does the same. Doesn't that sound ridiculous? This is the same thing. You also forgot that they are all brits, they are all white, they have one person playing an instrument for the bass lines, They all have two feet, they all sit while performing, and both groups have a mix of women and men. Now do they sound similar enough to have a case?
 

Jon Moody

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And is it really costing them money? I will hazard the guess that they never played in the same town at the same time to definitively show tangible losses. If anything it is costing the lesser known band more in refunds.

This has nothing to do with playing in the same town. It's about getting gigs, and in UOGB's case, losing them because someone books the "other" group without fully realizing they got the wrong one. Sure, at that point the other group loses money in refunds, but the UOGB in that case LOST THE GIG. The entire gig.

Please read post #36 in this thread, where Pete Madsen, which basically says that YES, this is costing the UOGB money. If you don't want to search for it, here's the post in its entirety (I've bolded the important parts).

"Our uke group raised a thousand dollars to help finance the "other group" and all bought tickets not realizing it was not the original orchestra. I'm a little ticked off and feel it was dubious the group didn't make it clear who they were. The guy raising the money felt embarrassed he wasn't informed better. Dang this group isn't even from England but from Germany. If they are that accomplished, why not name themselves Ukulele Orchestra of Germany? No class at all imo."


Agreed. There is also a lot of confusion in this thread regarding what UOGB's issue is. Specifically:

1. UOGB does not claim to have exclusive rights to the concept of ukulele orchestras, ukulele combos, wearing formal dress, or performing pop songs on ukuleles.
2. UOGB *does* claim that forming a ukulele orchestra that wears formal dress and performs pop songs on ukuleles and names themselves something very similar may 1. Infringe on UOGB's brand, and 2. Mislead people into believing they are patronizing UOGB when they are not, and 3. Devalue UOGB's brand and harm their ability to do business.

These are legitimate concerns which may or may not be proven in court. However, to my eye, UKUO did copy UOGB's act, which was unique and specific. UOGB is just trying to protect what they created, and feed their families, just like we all do.

Thing is, UKOB has even conceded that they realize this issue misleads the audience and general public. They KNOW it's an issue, and yet they went along with it.
 

Jon Moody

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i guess there are many orchestras that will have to stop wearing formal wear, playing classical music, and calling themselves an orchestra if a single group complains that also does the same. Doesn't that sound ridiculous? This is the same thing. You also forgot that they are all brits, they are all white, they have one person playing an instrument for the bass lines, They all have two feet, they all sit while performing, and both groups have a mix of women and men. Now do they sound similar enough to have a case?

It sounds ridiculous, because you're again missing the point. Please re-read post #35, in which I already discussed this.

"No, it's not. A symphonic orchestra is the name of a group that includes strings, winds and brass. It's a general term, much like the quartet, trio, jazz combo, etc.. It's not until you make it specific that the title holds any weight.

The Detroit Symphonic Orchestra (or DSO) specifically refers to the symphonic orchestra of Detroit, MI. It is assumed that any recordings or performances involving the DSO or Detroit Symphony Orchestra will involve this specific group.

If another symphony started up in Rochester Hills, and called themselves the Motown Symphony Orchestra and started playing around the general SE part of Michigan, you'd have a major issue. While the names aren't exact, given that Detroit and Motown are basically synonymous with each other, you will cause general confusion with the general ticket buying public. This is the issue with the UOGB vs UKUO title dispute. "
 

RichM

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i guess there are many orchestras that will have to stop wearing formal wear, playing classical music, and calling themselves an orchestra if a single group complains that also does the same. Doesn't that sound ridiculous? This is the same thing. You also forgot that they are all brits, they are all white, they have one person playing an instrument for the bass lines, They all have two feet, they all sit while performing, and both groups have a mix of women and men. Now do they sound similar enough to have a case?

Think of it this way: You open a pizza restaurant and call it Ohmless Pizza. You decorate it with a woodland theme and dress the servers as garden gnomes. It's a huge hit, and everybody wants to get eat the garden gnome pizza. Lines out the door.

I decide I want in on that action, so I open a place around the corner called Ohm's Original Pizza. I, too, use a woodland theme, and dress my servers as garden gnomes. Half your customers come to my place.

You didn't invent pizza restaurants, woodland themes, or garden gnomes, so you can't do anything about it. And the name of my place is different than yours, right? So you don't mind that you can't pay your bills?

This is exactly UOGB's concern. And they would be darn poor businesspeople if they didn't pursue it.
 

ohmless

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I read the whole thing the first time around. those people are entitled to a refund if they desire. end of story. As for losing play dates, I would agree that would constitute lost revenue, but then again they would have to substantiate that. You must have missed the part about implicit consent earlier. You snooze you lose. Tough break they have to live with.

Don't you see a problem with one music group telling another group they can't be called an orchestra, they can't dress up, they can't play cover music, they can't have gigs of their own, they can't name themselves something because it has two words in common?
 

Jon Moody

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Don't you see a problem with one music group telling another group they can't be called an orchestra, they can't dress up, they can't play cover music, they can't have gigs of their own, they can't name themselves something because it has two words in common?
Of course, which is why the injunction didn't go through. The UOGB can't tell the UKUO to not play, and honestly why would you? The more ukulele groups that are out there, the better.

HOWEVER, they can say "Your name is infringing on our trademark and is close enough that it's considered misleading. You need to change it." THAT is what they are going after. Again, it has nothing to do with UKULELE ORCHESTRA, and everything to do with the distinction of GREAT BRITAIN and UNITED KINGDOM, much like the argument I made previously between MOTOWN and DETROIT. Both are words used to describe the same thing.
 

hoosierhiver

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Maybe we should, as the ukulele community, start a petition asking them to reconsider the name. This thread has over 1,700 views so it seems to be something people are concerned about.
 

ohmless

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If their argument is solely about the name the other stuff is just frivolous. I sympathize somewhat, don't get me wrong, but they waited ages to act. I suspect if the second group called themselves the english ukulele orchestra or ukulele orchestra of england they would still have a problem with the other group in regards to lost gigs.
 
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