Bruce Lee Estate Karate Chops Infringers

Target Corp., Urban Outfitters Inc. and other retailers lost a motion to dismiss unfair competition and trademark infringement claims brought in New York by Bruce Lee's estate over T-shirts bearing the martial arts icon's image. The suit was originally filed in Indiana, but defendants moved for transfer of venue to either New York or Nevada. Defendants' motion was granted, and the case is now in front of the southern district court in New York. According to the pleadings, Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC ("BLE") sought damages and equitable relief for the "alleged unauthorized manufacture and sale of t-shirts bearing images of Bruce Lee owned by Plaintiff". (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36406) Bruce Lee, the martial artist and film star, died in 1973, leaving behind many registered trademarks as well as publicity and other intellectual property rights, including rights in Lee's "name, image, likeness, persona, distinctive appearance, and photographs". (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, without BLE's consent, made and sold t-shirts bearing Lee's image on Urban, Target, and other Web sites and in Urban and Target stores. (Id. ¶ 16. ) According to BLE, "[t]he Infringing Merchandise designed, manufactured, marketed, and / or sold by . . . the Defendants bearing the LEE Intellectual Property are [sic] substantially similar to licensed merchandise marketed and sold by BLE's licensees . . . ." (Id. ¶ 46.) The court held that these allegations adequately plead a likelihood of confusion. Thus the plaintiff's second amended complaint sufficiently plead a Lanham Act false endorsement claim, and BLE prevailed.

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