Glee Banned From TV After Comedy Club Spat?
YOU know Glee? It made Don’t Stop Believin’ a hit again and made the lives of music teachers up and down the country slightly more bearable after The Kids decided they want to sing in class after all (before reverting to type and sulking and smelling of new sweat).
Well, after enormous dominance, the show waned in popularity, replaced by… well… nothing. In Britain, nothing is what we might be getting after a judge (those paragons of virtue and hipness) ruled that it ‘diluted and tarnished’ the reputation of a chain of comedy clubs.
So what’s happening? Well, Comic Enterprises Ltd, who run four stand-up comedy clubs called ‘The Glee Club’ since the 90s have accused the Hollywood behemoths at Twentieth Century Fox of “swamping” its rights and “putting off” customers. Nothing worse than turning up somewhere and expecting a nice singalong and being faced with a comedian crying to himself on a stage.
The judge ruled that the TV show infringed the British company’s trade marks. This means that Comic Enterprises could claim gigantic amounts of money from Twentieth Century Fox or, if they prefer, go for an ‘account of profits’. It’s all money. If they’re feeling particularly peevish, they could get an injunction, banning it from our screens, not that anyone watches it these days.
Judge Roger Wyand QC said Comic Enterprises’ clubs had a ‘distinctive’ character and the studio had shown no ‘objective justification’ for trademark infringements that were likely to create confusion.
He ruled: “I have found that there is a likelihood of confusion and Twentieth Century Fox’s use causes dilution and tarnishing…the damage suffered by Comic Enterprises is caused by its venues being confused with the TV show and its potential customers being put off”.
He added that the studio’s “continued use” of ‘Glee’ “cannot be in accordance with honest practices in industrial and commercial matters”.
Mark Tughan, Comic Enterprises’ owner, said he was channel hopping when; “I thought ‘Jesus Christ – there’s a TV show with our name on it’. I warranted it to be serious enough to look into it and get to the bottom of what the hell was going on.”
Tughan added that he thought the show had a “saccharine, bland narrative”, and got worried when he realised the second series was a runaway success when it aired on Sky.
His barrister, Douglas Campbell, said: “The acts of Twentieth Century Fox have swamped the reputation of Comic Enterprises’ mark and thereby diluted its ability to denote its services.”
The court heard Twentieth Century Fox had set aside £750,000 to fight the trademark case and had accused Tughan of exaggerating his concerns that the programme was confusing punters. Twentieth Century Fox suggested that he had handed out some free tickets to people in a bid to get some evidence that people were stupid enough to confuse a television show and a building.
However, it wasn’t needed as the judge said: “I found Mr Tughan to be an honest witness. I find that there was nothing wrong or underhand about the way he obtained evidence from members of the public and I reject all the criticisms of his conduct.”
“I do not see any objective justification for Twentieth Century Fox’s use of the sign if it causes confusion with the mark or, even if it does not cause confusion, it damages the mark. Does the use of the sign cause damage to the distinctive character or repute of the mark? The evidence establishes that it does.”
“Comedy Enterprises’ case on detriment to the distinctive character and repute of the mark is made out. I have found that there is a likelihood of confusion and that Twentieth Century Fox’s use causes dilution and tarnishing. Continued use of the sign in such circumstances cannot be in accordance with honest practices in industrial or commercial matters”.
“The damage suffered by Comic Enterprises is caused by its venues being confused with the TV show and its potential customers being put off”.
So there you go. Nice little earner for a comedy club there and a lesson to us all: If you’re going to sue a gigantic company, don’t stop believing you can bring them to their knees.
Feel free to throw some rotten tomatoes our way for that dreadful parting joke.