San Diego – Jimmy Buffett and his Margaritaville brand empire recently won another trademark dispute. This time, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled against Colorado based entrepreneur, Rachel Bevis, who was attempting to register “Marijuanaville” for her cannabis based retail products and clothing store. The judge ruled that both trademarks leave a similar impression of “a chemically induced mental paradise.”
The brand “Margaritaville” comes from the famous song recorded by Jimmy Buffett in 1977. In the subsequent 30 years, Margaritaville Enterprises LLC has grown into an internationally recognized business entity. The brand encompasses dozens of casinos, bars, resorts, restaurants, and even a Florida based retirement community. Furthermore, Margaritaville sells a vast array of products around the world, ranging from barbecue sauce to lawn furniture.
Rachel Bevis filed her Marijuanaville trademark application in 2014. Her intent was to open a cannabis retail store that also offered cannabis themed apparel. Trademark Trial and Appeals Board Judge Angela Lykos wrote, “Margaritaville trademarks have been the subject of widespread media and popular culture exposure.” During the ruling, the judge cited that 73 percent of responders knew the Margaritaville brand. Because the brand is so famous, Margaritaville is afforded much broader protection under the Lanham Act.
Buffett’s trademark lawyers argued that adding “Marijuana” instead of “Margarita” to the beginning of “ville” was not a significant enough change to avoid consumer confusion. Essentially, both words call to mind a state of chemically created utopia. They argued that the brands were confusingly similar, and consumers would falsely view Marijuanaville as an extension of Buffett’s brand. According to the judge’s ruling, “Margaritaville is more than a song – it’s a brand that owns the feeling of ‘a chemically induced mental paradise”.
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Enterprises LLC won a similar trademark dispute in 2012, when it filed a lawsuit against a Florida Restaurant Owner. The defendant in that case had named his establishment the “Martiniville Liquor Bar and Kitchen.” Apparently the restaurant owner decided to change the name of his restaurant to the “Martini Bistro” rather than defend legal actions.
Bevis still has legal options open to her. She can either challenge the ruling in the Federal Circuit or appeal the board’s ruling to a federal district court.