You just can't have a little clever fun anymore. With all the hoops cover bands have to jump through just to ply their craft, I had never really considered that one cover band might get into a trademark scuffle over the band's name. Yet, that's exactly what has happened to the Doobie Decimal System, a cover band now being sued by The Doobie Brothers, who claim that the band's name is confusingly similar to their own.
The Doobie Brothers trademarked their band name — as well as the use of “Doobies” for musical performances — in 1982, and their suit argues that the Doobie Decimal System’s moniker is “highly phonetically and visually similar” to their own, a similarity further compounded by the larger font used for the word “Doobie” in the Decimal System’s website and concert posters.
Ah, yes, an enormously popular classic rock band with the kind of name recognition most bands only dream about is going to be confused with the Doobie Decimal System, a cover band whose name is a play on an organizational system for libraries. Congratulations, trademark pushers, this is where you've brought us. I contend that no amount of doobies could actually result in this doobie-confusion, but some of the supporters of this lawsuit are really stretching themselves to argue that there would indeed be such confusion.
Although the story is being spun in some quarters as though the Doobie Brothers are claiming to own the word “doobie,” they’re really just defending the trademark they own — and as Billboard‘s report points out, since the Doobie Decimal System performs hits from the same decade that produced most of the Doobie Brothers’ bestselling albums, they’re not entirely out of line in viewing one another as indirect competitors.
Yeah, actually, they kind of are out of line of direct competition. Nobody is confused here and the cover band is competing with The Doobie Brothers about as much as a little league game competes with Major League Baseball. Sure, they're both baseball, but nobody is trying to figure out how to spend their baseball dollar and deciding between the two. In the meantime, even if The Doobie Brothers felt some kind of fearful obligation to protect their trademark, they could certainly be going about it more amicably than this suit.
They’re seeking “an accounting, an injunction and punitive damages for trademark infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition.”
Our only hope here is that the folks that own the IP on the Dewey Decimal system (yes, seriously, someone owns
it) can be brought into the mix, causing the sitting judge's head to explode in frustration so everyone can just go home.