In 2016, Beyoncé filed suit against Feyoncé, a merchandise and apparel line for engaged couples, claiming the FEYONCÉ brand infringes Beyoncé’s rights in her name. Recently, the SDNY issued an order denying Beyoncé’s motion for summary judgment in that case. The judge stated “there can be no dispute that in marketing to fiancé purchasers, defendants chose the formation “FEYONCÉ” in order to capitalize off of the exceedingly famous BEYONCÉ mark.” In addition to the word FEYONCÉ, Defendant’s merchandise depicts phrases from Beyoncé’s well known songs. The USPTO refused to register FEYONCÉ because, among other reasons, it was found confusingly similar to BEYONCÉ. Despite those facts, the judge was unconvinced that the marks are similar. The judge also held that FEYONCÉ may be a parody of BEYONCÉ so that “a rational jury might or might not conclude that the pun here is sufficient to dispel any confusion among the purchasing public.”
This is another disappointing decision for a famous brand owner due to a parody defense. In a different SDNY case last year against My Other Bag, the court clarified that a parody must be poking fun at the trademark owner specifically, rather than just making a fun spoof or play on words. I wonder what Feyoncé is intending (or will claim) to say about Beyoncé?
Defendants’ mark could be considered a pun—it is clearly a reference to Plaintiff Beyoncé, but it is just as clearly a signifier of a specific relationship status.