So I'm curious about the legal standing of an IP trademark owned by a party that did not originate the concept, but which is using it, potentially to the detriment of the original work, to suppress others from doing the same thing, essentially.
Also, most of this is going to sound very silly.
- In 2005, a group of entertainers created an Internet comedy series called "Yacht Rock," which told the imaginary histories of the careers of a number of AM Gold/West Coast musicians (Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, The Doobie Bros., Steely Dan, Toto, etc.). They coined the phrase "yacht rock" to describe the (artificial, arbitrary) smooth-music genre in which these acts circulated. The series was produced as a parody, drawing inspiration from real-life figures and events, and inventing a fictional narrative around them.
- The success of the Yacht Rock web series has materially benefited the real-life musicians whose stories it purports to tell. Its success renewed popular interest in their catalogues sufficient for them to tour again. Some of these artists have acknowledged this publicly, even seeking to promote their tours as "yacht rock." Satellite radio entity SIRIUS/XM created a "yacht rock" genre channel, while Rock Band video game developers Harmonix recently released a "yacht rock" song pack, capitalizing on this renewed interest.
- In 2008, a cover act from Atlanta formed, calling itself "Yacht Rock Revue," and playing a number of songs both consistent and inconsistent with the genre, as defined by the comedy group that coined the term "yacht rock." However, what Yacht Rock Revue did that the comedy series writers did not is trademark the term "yacht rock." (A USPTO search reveals that Yacht Rock Revue claims ownership of U.S. Registration Number 3834195, and in June 2018 filed an additional TEAS Plus application for its merchandise.) The band has since used its trademark to cease-and-desist "yacht rock" marketing used by other musicians, including the recording artists whose work they perform.
- In 2016, the creators of the Yacht Rock comedy series began a podcast called "Beyond Yacht Rock," which creates and defines artificial/arbitrary genres of music. In the process, they honed their definition of "yacht rock" as a musical style, created a "Yachtski Scale" to score the "yachtiness" of a given song along a series of (principally arbitrary) metrics, and wrote vigorous critical defenses of these definitions in a "Captain's Blog." They even interviewed Yacht Rock Revue on the show, and discussed the merits of the band's "yacht rock" material vis-a-vis their definitions.
- Yacht Rock Revue has openly acknowledged that it nicked the term "yacht rock" from the web comedy series. Yacht Rock's creators have been acknowledged as founders of the genre in interviews with with Rolling Stone magazine and the NPR music show World Cafe. Yet various parties (recently, sports writer Bill Simmons among them) continue to claim ownership of the "yacht rock" concept under some personal definition, Yacht Rock Revue included.
Are there any legal remedies for the writers of the web comedy series to:
- keep the "yacht rock" term from being leveraged by parties like Yacht Rock Revue
- profit from their original coinage
- trademark their evolving definition/terminology
- protect their future endeavors from similar behavior, which to me seems at least partly analogous to patent trolling