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Judge declines summary judgement in Beyonce’s Feyonce dispute

By | Published on Tuesday 2 October 2018


A US judge has declined to issue an injunction banning the company Feyonce Inc from selling merchandise containing the Feyonce brand. Feyonce sounds like ‘fiancĂ©’, see, but looks more like Beyonce. Feyonce Inc’s core customer base, therefore, is Beyonce fans getting married. A clever little ruse that pissed off the actual Beyonce.

She sued the company back in 2016, claiming that Feyonce Inc was infringing her trademarks and confusing consumers, all the more so with the Feyonce products that also contain the line “he put a ring on it”. The plucky merch peddlers were involved in conduct that was “intentional, fraudulent, malicious, wilful and wanton”, her lawsuit declared.

Judge Alison Nathan yesterday refused to issue a permanent injunction stopping Feyonce Inc from selling Feyonce products. Nathan said that while Beyonce’s side had made some compelling arguments, she felt that the core dispute required proper consideration in court before a jury, and therefore a summary judgement in the pop star’s favour was not appropriate at this time. She then urged both sides to meet to consider a possible settlement.

The key question that Nathan reckoned would need to go before a jury is whether the average consumer would assume that Feyonce branded nonsense was somehow endorsed by Beyonce. Or whether, in fact, the punny nature of the products was sufficient to make it clear that Feyonce branded tat was in no way officially linked to the singer.

She then cited a 1990s case in which Nike failed in its bid to stop a company from selling products that mimicked its logo, but which used the word Mike instead of Nike. Its customer base mainly being made up of Michaels, presumably.

“A rational jury might or might not conclude that the pun here is sufficient to dispel any confusion among the purchasing public”, the judge wrote. “Many purchasers of Feyonce products are, in fact, engaged, just as many Mike product purchasers were named Mike. Viewed in the light most favourable to defendants, this evidence suggests that consumers are understanding the pun, rather than confusing the brands”.

It remains to be seen if the two sides can now reach a settlement, or whether the dispute will need to go before a jury.