Beasley v. Howard

While not on the scale of Tupac vs. Biggie, this case involved a dispute amongst musicians. David Beasley and William Howard are embroiled in a long-running dispute over the rights to the band name “Ebonys.” Beasley filed two petitions before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) to cancel Howard’s registered THE EBONYS trademark. The TTAB dismissed the petitions. Beasley then sued Howard for trademark infringement in federal court. The District Court relied on claim preclusion to dismiss Beasley’s complaint. Beasley appealed, and the Third Circuit reversed. The Court noted there are jurisdictional limits that accompany the TTAB’s role as the primary venue for narrow trademark registration questions. The Court then held that because of those jurisdictional limits, proceedings before the TTAB do not carry claim preclusive effect against subsequent Article III infringement proceedings under section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, which protects unregistered and state law trademarks against infringement.

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