Seedy Scores Suit

Posted by | April 16, 2011 | General | No Comments

A Utah corporation, Scores Holding Company, Inc. (Utah Scores), which owns a chain of strip clubs (oh, the irony) filed suit on Tuesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against an Indiana corporation, Scores, Inc. (Indiana Scores), which also operates a strip club.  The suit alleges that Indiana Scores engaged in unfair competition and willful infringement that directly and negatively impacted Utah Scores ability to maintain its reputation and consumers.  (Even strip clubs have reputations to protect!)

According to the  Evansville Courier & Press, Indiana Scores’ attorney, Mark Warzecha, said:

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the national chain has known about the local company’s name since it incorporated in Indiana in December 2000 . . . While Scores, Inc. is the Evansville’s company’s corporate name, it does not use it in relation to its bar or the marketing and advertising of it [as part of] an arrangement [that] was worked out with the national chain’s lawyers 11 years ago.

. . . the Evansville company isn’t responsible if others refer to the local bar as “Scores.”  We have no control over what people call it.

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Let me see if I got this straight:  You don’t market your club as SCORES, you just allow yourselves to be known SCORES?   Oh, but it gets even better.   Though it’s hard to imagine this being said with a straight face, Warzecha apparently also stated that the name of the bar is “Sports Bar & Gentlemen’s Club.”  That’s the name of the bar?!?  Are you kidding?  Anyone can tell that’s a generic description.

Granted, trade names (business names) don’t necessarily function as trademarks.  For example, Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. is the trade name of the company that owns the SUBARU trademarks (those of the best cars on the planet, at least for snowy mountain drivers.  Yes, SUBARU is another brand of which I am a loyal fan — my first one lasted me 10 years and 186,000+ miles and continues to be driven and loved by good friends of mine).

But back to the seedy suit  . . .  Utah Scores maintains its principal place of business in in New York City (not in Utah, really?).  It operates clubs in New York City, Baltimore, Chicago, & New Orleans.  It even has its own Wikipedia entry.  Utah Scores claims to have good will and brand recognition that “likely exceeds that achieved by any other gentleman’s club in the nation,” in large part due to promotion on The Howard Stern Show, which apparently ended its promotion of Scores in 2007, when Stern found he scored better at Ricks Cabaret.  Utah Scores also claims to be “largely responsible for creating the concept of a high-end sophisticated gentleman’s club.”  Wow, what a debt of gratitude we owe them for pioneering the up-scale degradation of women.

The SCORES suit alleges that Indiana Scores (referred to as Scores-IN throughout the lawsuit), is a dirty place:

[framed_box] Scores-IN’s business in Evansville, Indiana is a downscale establishment of significantly lower quality and reputation than any of the clubs operated by [Utah] Scores and its licensees.  Scores-IN reputation has been damaged significantly by the occurrence of a series of disreputable actions and events such as alleged misrepresentations to the Vanderburgh County Alcoholic Beverage Commission, shootings outside of the Scores-IN club, use of underage dancers, and the occurrence of a large number of police runs and arrests of Scores-IN patrons for crimes such as public intoxication, resisting arrest and fighting.  [/framed_box]

According to the Evansville Courier & Press article, Evansville police made 97 runs to the Indiana Scores in 2010 and 52 runs thus far this year.  At least they’re doing their part to support the local police department.

The suit also alleged:

[framed_box]Scores-IN’s unauthorized use of the Plaintiff’s SCORES trademark infringes [Utah] Score’s rights in its trademark by confusing customers into believing that Scores-IN establishment is somehow related to or sponsored by Plaintiff Scores.  More devastating to the Plaintiff, however, is that Plaintiff Scores’ business reputation is being tainted by Scores-IN’s lower quality services and Scores-IN’s disreputable actions and events[/framed_box]

Utah Scores owns 5 US trademark registrations for its SCORES marks.  Utah Scores alleges that Indiana Scores is commonly known as SCORES, which is indistinguishable from Utah Scores’ federally registered marks.  Utah Scores also asserts that Indiana Scores uses the SCORES mark in the metadata of its MySpace page (who knew company’s still use MySpace?) and actively allows third parties to refer to it as SCORES on their websites.  Moreover, a Google search for the term “SCORES Evansville” allegedly returned Indiana Scores’ “Scores Strip Club” MySpace page (since removed).  Sounds like Indiana Scores was a little more involved with using SCORES to identify its business than its attorney would have us believe.

I predict UTAH Scores will score the win in this case — forcing Indiana Scores to change its name for good.

Thanks to David Pardue for posting this story to INTA’s LinkedIn Group.

All lawful businesses (even strip clubs) have the right to protect their trademarks.  One of the many benefits of federal trademark registration is the ability to bring an action concerning the registration in federal court under “federal question” jurisdiction.

About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

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