The Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (TTAB) has rejected a trademark application to register the mark PURPLE RAIN, finding that such a mark would create the false suggestion of a connection with the late iconic recording artist Prince Rogers Nelson. Where a party seeks to register a new trademark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, that registration may be opposed by other parties for specific reasons, including where the registration would cause consumer confusion or where it would create a false suggestion of a connection with another party.
JHO Intellectual Property Holdings sought to register the mark PURPLE RAIN for dietary and supplemental energy drinks and for “Energy drinks; Isotonic drinks; Non-alcoholic drinks, namely, energy shots, ‘Sports drinks.’” The registration of the mark was opposed by Paisley Park Enterprises, LLC and NPG Records, LLC, who, between them claimed registered and common law rights in the mark, as well as rights to Prince’s image, name, and likeness.
Paisley Park and NPG presented evidence showing that the term “Purple Rain” was associated with and often synonymous with Prince, including that PURPLE RAIN was a 13X platinum album selling millions of copies worldwide and was the title of an Academy-award-winning movie scored by and starring Prince.
In concluding that JHO’s mark created a false suggestion of a connection with Prince, the TTAB found that: (i) JHO’s PURPLE RAIN mark was a close approximation of Prince’s identity; (ii) that PURPLE RAIN pointed uniquely and unmistakably to Prince, based in part of a survey showing 66.3% of the general public recognized “Purple Rain” as a reference to Prince; (iii) that there was no connection between Paisley Park/NPG and JHO’s goods using the mark; and (iv) that consumers would presume a connection to Prince because Paisley Park and NPG marketed a variety of goods under the PURPLE RAIN mark (even though they did not sell energy drinks or supplements specifically).
In a statement, L. Londell McMillan, Managing Member of Prince Legacy, LLC, the co-manager of the Prince estate and assets, said, “as stewards of Prince’s legacy, we are pleased that the Board recognized the direct association that ‘Purple Rain’ has with Prince, and the strong likelihood that any third party use of ‘Purple Rain’ will create a false suggestion of a connection with Prince.”