“How does it feel? To be on your own. With no direction home. Like a complete unknown.” Bob Dylan
Those old enough to remember The Beatles debut may be surprised to learn that another British Invasion is underway a generation later. Back in ’64, a nation roiled by tragedy discovered a quartet of musical savants, boyhood friends who honed their chops in the dank basement clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg. A gifted producer, George Martin, molded their virtuosic talents to produce the greatest library of pop music the world has ever known. When the cadaverous Ed Sullivan brought their infectious music into our living rooms on a winter’s eve, he instantly lifted the pall that had blanketed America since that dark Dallas day in November of ’63 and changed the world of music forever.
Today, our shores are graced by another collection of British lads, brought together by an even more formidable impresario–Simon Cowell, the dyspeptic English architect of American Idol and The X-Factor. The man whose scowl has sunk a thousand careers and launched several others. This time, instead of a Fab Four, we have a pre-fab five called One Direction. This band’s music has been percolating among tweens and teens for almost a year. Now, One Direction is shattering the mainstream in a huge way. The band has a number one album, outstripping the latest release by American icon Bruce Springsteen. And they’ve had their own televised intro to the American viewing public via a coveted performance on Saturday Night Live.
By almost every measure, the “one direction” these phenoms seemed headed was up. Nothing stood in the way of their meteoric rise–nothing that is except “softrights’ in the form of a trademark claim by another band by the same name–an unheralded American group also called One Direction. Hailing from Los Angeles, that homegrown One Direction claims to have coined its name in 2009, well before the British belters even caught Simon Cowell’s ear.
If the American band’s claims of prior adoption and use pan out, it could spell trouble, with a capital T that stands for Trademark Infringement. American trademark law gives ownership of a band name to the outfit that uses it first in this country. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, America’s One Direction has fired the opening salvo in a legal dispute that could wind up sending the British band to the wings. In their complaint filed in a U.S. Federal court, the L.A. band seeks damages to the tune of $1 million as well as an injunction that would force Simon Cowell’s proteges to pick a new name.
The dispute is still in its infancy, but already, the British One Direction faces a stark choice, either pay the piper to continue using the name under which its accumulated fame and fortune, or take its chances before an American judge and Los Angeles jury.
Whatever the outcome, Simon Cowell’s “direction” in building his next international super group will surely include a visit with a U.S. trademark lawyer. As for the American One Direction, the answer to Bob Dylan’s questions from “Like A Rolling Stone” is hardly blowin’ in the wind. With their lawsuit taking center stage, being a complete unknown must feel pretty, pretty good.
Quote of the Day: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” George Harrison.